Mike Zimmer plans to coach Sunday’s game from the Vikings sideline, not the coaches booth, while wearing special-made sunglasses as he returns from a series of surgeries to repair a detached retina in his right eye.
The Vikings coach, who had his third and fourth surgeries the days before and after missing last week’s loss to Dallas, will have the team’s strength coaches watching nearby on the sideline to help him avoid being run over, which, obviously, would be a risk to the eye.
Zimmer’s eye doctor asked the Vikings medical staff to try and persuade Zimmer to coach from the safety of the booth but gave Zimmer the option.
Zimmer’s recovery is going well. The coach had to spend a day after his fourth surgery lying face down, and he still has some restrictions such as sleeping positions and how far he can look up. He has been cleared to fly with the team.
The special-made sunglasses will have the right lens completely blacked out so Zimmer can see clearly using only his left eye. There’s still some double vision in the right eye.
Zimmer brushed aside questions about his eye during his Friday news conference.
“We’ll be OK,” he said.
Berger, Smith out
The Vikings ruled key starters Joe Berger and Harrison Smith out of Sunday’s game on Friday. Nick Easton will make his second straight start in place of Berger at center, while Anthony Harris could get the start in place of Smith at free safety.
Berger had a setback in the concussion protocol Thursday morning after being limited in practice on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, punt returner Marcus Sherels (rib) is questionable after missing the past two games, including a loss to Dallas that turned the wrong way when Adam Thielen muffed a punt inside his 10-yard line. Also questionable is backup linebacker and special teamer Edmond Robinson.
Jacksonville ruled out receiver Allen Hurns (hamstring), defensive end Jared Odrick (shoulder), running back Denard Robinson (ankle), tight end Julius Thomas (back) and defensive back Peyton Thompson (ankle). Running back Chris Ivory, who missed last week’s game, is questionable, as is starting center Brandon Linder (ankle).
Easton coming along
Easton, the second-year pro acquired as part of last year’s Gerald Hodges trade with San Francisco, appears to be gaining some more credibility within the organization after playing most of the Cardinals game two weeks ago and starting against the Cowboys last week.
“[He’s doing] pretty good,” Zimmer said. “He has been quick to get to the second level. He has been good on the double teams. He has got a low center of gravity with some strength, so he hasn’t been getting overpowered. So, I think, there have been a lot of good things, and obviously, there are some things he has got to clean up.”
• Asked if he ever anticipated going from a run-first team to a pass-first team (with the 32nd-ranked running attack), Zimmer said, “Well, there’s a lot of things that I didn’t plan on when the season started. It’s part of adaptation in this league. It’s really what every NFL season is.”
• It’s no secret that a drag on Cordarrelle Patterson’s development has been his attention to detail when it comes to his route running. He has gotten better, which has resulted in more opportunities this year. Asked Friday how Patterson’s route running has been this season, Zimmer said. “At times, really good, and at times, it needs to be better.”