Coach Mike Zimmer, who last Wednesday had yet another surgery on his right eye, “will be taking time away from the team to dedicate to recovering from eye surgery and restoring his health,” General Manager Rick Spielman announced in a statement this morning.
“We all agree Mike’s health is the priority and we believe rest and recovery are in his best interest for the long term,” Spielman.
The Vikings anticipate Zimmer “back on the field in a few weeks.”
Zimmer over the weekend revealed that he had another surgery last week and shrugged when asked if it would be the last. The 60-year-old has now undergone eight surgeries on his right eye since last November.
He missed the team’s game against the Dallas Cowboys last December following emergency eye surgery for a detached retina. And his vision issues in the eye have carried over into the offseason. At the NFL scouting combine in March, he told a reporter who was sitting a few feet away from him that “I can make you out, but you’re blurry.”
Zimmer has since undergone four more surgeries, three unplanned.
Zimmer said in March that doctors told him there is “a high likelihood” that he will experience similar issues in his left eye someday.
Zimmer has tried to maintain a sense of humor about his eye problems when speaking publicly. And he was again active in the scouting process this offseason, hitting the road with Spielman to attend pro days and work out players. But after his latest eye surgery, it was decided by either Zimmer or the Vikings that he needs to be away from the team.
The Vikings have not made Zimmer available to local reporters following their announcement that he needed to leave the team. But they did arrange for him to appear on KFAN, their official radio partner, this morning.
Zimmer, who admitted to “pushing back” when doctors recommended he take time off, will spend the coming weeks at his ranch in Kentucky.
“The doctors all got together and we had a long meeting about what’s the best recuperation of this eye and they said that I need to try to spend the next couple of weeks just working on my recovery,” Zimmer said. “I just left the doctor’s office, got really good news. The retina looks great and the pressure in my eye is really good. At this point now we just need to take it easy and make sure it continues to heal the right away.”
Zimmer said that during a recheck “a couple days” after he had surgery to put an oxygen bubble in the eye on April 17, doctors told him that he had developed a cataract. So he had a follow-up procedure to remove the cataract and put more oil back in the eye.
But that oil made the pressure in his eye “very, very high,” so much that the doctors were concerned he could develop glaucoma. So another surgery was needed to take the oil out and put more oxygen back in.
In his latest appointment with his doctors, he was told the retina is now totally attached and “looks great” and pressure in the eye is down.
“This is probably the best it’s ever been and if I don’t screw it up by going out and yelling at players and doing things that I shouldn’t be doing, then I think this will be the best development we’ve had,” Zimmer said.
While special teams coordinator Mike Priefer oversaw the team while Zimmer was sidelined for that December loss to the Cowboys, the plan is for the entire coaching staff to split up his duties in the coming weeks. Defensive line coach Andre Patterson will take on a larger leadership role, making sure Zimmer’s message continues to get across to the players.
Zimmer said the coaches will send him video of practice for him to evaluate and he will communicate with them and provide feedback daily.
This is the first week for organized team activities (OTAs) as the Vikings’ voluntary offseason workout program reaches its third and final phase.