Mike Zimmer, despite his ongoing eye issues that have him exiled from Winter Park, vowed Friday that they won’t prevent him from continuing his coaching career.
“I’ll be back shortly. One eye or two, it really doesn’t matter. I’m going to be back,” the Vikings head coach said. “So we can put the retiring thing or whatever to bed quickly.”
Speaking to media on a conference call Friday morning, Zimmer said he has experienced no setbacks since May 17, when he had his latest eye surgery. He had another positive appointment Wednesday with a doctor in the Cincinnati area and his doctors here were pleased after chatting with him on the phone Thursday night.
Zimmer, who is staying at his ranch in Kentucky, said the plan is for him to return to Minnesota on June 4 and visit with his local doctors the following day. If all is well, he could be back stalking the sidelines at Winter Park for that week’s organized team activities.
Obviously, not being there this week was not easy for the 60-year-old football lifer.
“I miss being in the meetings with players and I especially miss being out on the field, where I can give immediate feedback on technique and things like that,” he said.
While Zimmer has full access to practice footage via computer and has been texting feedback to players and coaches all week, he has made a point to mix in breaks.
Zimmer, who left Minnesota on Monday morning and was driven back to Kentucky that day, said he has tried to relax by cleaning his house, riding his quad and going fishing. He also reported that he had breakfast with his neighbor before joining the call.
But that’s the kind of Kentucky fun he likes to have in July, not during OTAs.
“Usually I love it here,” Zimmer said. “But I don’t like it too much this week.”
On Wednesday, General Manager Rick Spielman was asked whether this was Zimmer’s decision or the team’s for the coach to step away for at least a couple of weeks. “I would just say Coach Zimmer is very hard-headed in a lot of things,” Spielman said with a laugh. On Friday morning, Zimmer described it as “kind of a forced situation.”
“But I think in the long run it’s the best thing for me,” Zimmer conceded.
Zimmer first underwent surgery for a torn retina last November. A few weeks later, he had a third one, for a detached retina. As of March, he had undergone four and was told he would be in the clear after two more surgeries, one of which was cataract surgery. But he has since had three surgeries that were not initially planned, putting the total at eight.
Despite the ongoing issues, which have clearly taken a toll on the blue-collar coach, he said he still has confidence in his doctors, who assure him his eye is not a lost cause.
But even if he does permanently lose vision in that eye, he has no plans to retire.
“I don’t want to go blind in this eye. But if that’s what it is, that’s what it is,” Zimmer said. “I’ve thought about it. This is not going to keep me from coaching one way or another.”