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Zimmer, Spielman Explain Dennison's New Role, Faith in Rauscher's Coaching Ability

EAGAN, Minn. — The Vikings will hold their first full-team practice of training camp Wednesday afternoon at Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center, and will do so with some changes to their offensive coaching staff.

Minnesota announced Tuesday that Rick Dennison will remain on Minnesota’s coaching staff as a Senior Offensive Advisor and work virtually due to COVID-19 protocols set by the NFL and the NFLPA.

Dennison spent the past two seasons as the team's offensive line coach and run game coordinator.

Phil Rauscher is now the Vikings offensive line coach after being the assistant under Dennison in 2020. Minnesota also hired Ben Steele to be the new assistant offensive line coach.

View photos of the Vikings 2021 coaching staff.

Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer provided details on how responsibilities and duties will be shared between the group.

"Rick is a football coach, and he's got 40 years of experience doing what he's doing. I felt like it was important that we use him as a resource, but we also give him the opportunity to continue to work," Zimmer said. "He has so much knowledge and so much experience that I felt like he could be a big help with [Vikings Offensive Coordinator] Klint [Kubiak] and myself.

"Basically, what he's going to be doing, he's going to [virtually] watch the practice [film] with the offensive coaches, he's going to be helping to evaluate. Little things like that," Zimmer added.

Zimmer said Dennison's prior responsibilities as the run game coordinator will be split collectively among the Vikings offensive staff.

Zimmer added Dennison's role will be similar to Paul Guenther, who is on the Vikings defensive staff. The only difference is that Dennison must work virtually due to COVID-19 protocols.

"Then the next part, as we start getting ready for the games in the season, he'll be helping with game-plan ideas, third-down ideas, protection ideas, things like that," Zimmer said.

Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said the Vikings will benefit from Dennison's expertise, even from afar.

"We're very excited for him to still be a part of this staff in this capacity," Spielman said.

Spielman and Zimmer also both noted they are excited for Rauscher to get a chance to lead his own room. The duo said Rauscher has turned down other coaching jobs to stay in Purple.

"I also felt like it was important that there was one voice in the meeting room, so he's going to be in charge of the meeting room," Zimmer said of Rauscher. "I've got the utmost confidence in Phil. He's had very many opportunities to leave here, and we've talked him out of it because I figured someday [Dennison] might decide to retire and Phil would be ready to go.

"But he's had a lot of opportunities to leave," Zimmer added. "I felt like this was the best win-win situation for our football team and also with [Dennison]."

Spielman said: "Rick will be joining virtually. But he will be in contact with Coach Zim', he will in contact with Klint, with Phil and basically just the whole offense in giving his input."

Rauscher has six seasons of NFL coaching experience with Denver (2015-17), Washington (2018-19) and Minnesota.

He also has multiple years of experience in the Vikings wide-zone run scheme, including in 2020 when the Vikings ranked fifth overall with 142.7 rushing yards per game.

Steele played in 17 career games with Green Bay in 2004 and 2005, catching four passes for 42 yards as a tight end, after spending parts of the 2003 and 2004 seasons on the Vikings practice squad.

Zimmer said he isn't worried about the coaching transition, even as the calendar is about to flip to August.

"They have been using the same techniques for two years," Zimmer said of a line that Dennison has been molding since he arrived with former Offensive Coordinator Gary Kubiak. "[It'd be tougher] if it was a completely different system and we brought a guy in off the street that was going to change the protection calls and the run game calls and things like that.

"But Phil has been in the system for quite a while," Zimmer added. "He's got a great feel for what we've been trying to do in the run game — the calls, the steps, the footwork, the hand placement. Phil is a very aggressive, boisterous, I guess is the word for it, coach that will push these guys."

Spielman told "Voice of the Vikings" Paul Allen during an interview on KFAN 100.3-FM that he first saw Rauscher coach at the 94th East-West Shrine Bowl in January 2019. Vikings Co-Defensive Coordinator/linebackers coach Adam Zimmer was the head coach of the West team at that all-star game, with Rauscher coaching the offensive line.

"A lot of the time I spent down there was sitting in coaching meetings and personnel meetings to see how some of the coaches run their rooms," Spielman said. "His presence, his ability to teach, his knowledge of the game, the mentors he has worked with, he's had some opportunities [to leave] this offseason, to be honest with you, but I think he's a bright, young, upcoming star on that offensive line.

Spielman added later during his press conference: "I feel very strongly about this staff and the success that we're going to have on the offensive side of the ball."