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Patriots co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich won’t return due to COVID-19 vaccine requirement, per report

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Mark J. Rebilas / USA TODAY Sports

New England Patriots co-offensive line coach Cole Popovich will not be coaching with the team during the 2021 season, as first reported by Jim McBride of The Boston Globe. The reason being, per ESPN’s Mike Reiss, is related to the COVID-19 vaccination requirements for all Tier 1 staff, which includes coaches among other top-brass. 

Popovich is the second NFL coach to leave his team due to these requirements. Earlier on Friday, it was reported that Rick Dennison and the Minnesota Vikings had parted ways after the team’s O-line and run game coordinator refused to receive a COVID-19 vaccination. 

Earlier this summer, the NFL sent out guidelines saying that any unvaccinated person in Tier 1 status needed to provide a valid religious or medical reason for not receiving the vaccine. If a coach does not get Tier 1 status, they cannot be on the field, in meeting rooms, or have direct contact with players. Under those parameters, it’s virtually impossible to execute the job properly and efficiently while unvaccinated. 

During a conference call on Friday, Dr. Allen Sills noted that coaching staffs throughout the league are nearly 100% vaccinated

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Meanwhile, Popovich had been with the Patriots dating back to 2015 and had begun working his way up the coaching ladder. After serving as a coaching assistant through the 2018 season, the 36-year-old was the assistant running backs coach in 2019 and more recently co-ran the offensive line last year. Now, Carmen Bricillo — who was co-offensive line coach alongside Popovich in 2020 — is primed to take on the lead role in 2021.

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