After having emergency eye surgery last Wednesday night, about 24 hours before kickoff of an important game with playoff implications, Zimmer was forced to watch the game from his home instead of going to U.S. Bank Stadium.
“I feel like that I’ve let an awful lot of people down, the players and fans and coaches, because there’s an awful lot of people counting on me, so that makes it a little bit more difficult,” Zimmer told KFAN on Tuesday. “But I have to try to manipulate things to do the best that I can for everyone involved.”
Zimmer said after the first of four surgeries on his right eye on Nov. 1 that he was told if he didn’t tend to the torn or detached retina that blindness in his eye was a possibility. Still, while he was “persuaded” to stay away from the game, a 17-15 loss, he visited the team before the game last Thursday morning at its hotel to talk with players and coaches.
He called it an “emotional” talk. The message?
“Basically that I would never let them down, that I would never abandon them, that I could be with them every possible moment that I could be, and it was just unfortunate that this is what this has to be this one particular time,” he said.
While the intense Zimmer wasn’t supposed to get excited about the game, likely to avoid any jarring motions around the eye, being an observer during such a close loss to the Cowboys, who have the NFL’s best record, wasn’t easy.
“I did a pretty good job of that, I think, until sometime at the end of the football game – but, you know, it was hard, I guess. You’ve got to what you’ve got to do,” he said. “And maybe it gave me a little bit different perspective on seeing the team play. I don’t know, but obviously I wish I would’ve been there and had the opportunity to try to help the football team as best I could, but I think the coaches did a good job the rest of the ballgame, and the players for the most part team did some good things.”
Zimmer has been dealing with eye issues for at least five weeks now and plans were put in place to make adjustments in coaching duties if necessary. Last Thursday, that became necessary, with special teams coordinator Mike Priefer given the duties of a head coach.
While it was “trying” for Zimmer to be relegated to an observer, he mentioned an e-mail he received that helped put his situation in perspective.
“I got a letter from a fighter bomb squadron who had a detached retina today, and it was an e-mail, and he talked about his struggles and things like that, so I’m not the only one that has to go through these kind of things,” Zimmer said. “I have to figure out a way to fix this football team and where we’re going from there. So obviously I have to take my health into consideration.”
He had his fourth surgery in five weeks on Friday morning, less than 48 hours after the emergency surgery. A follow-up on Saturday produced a positive report, he said.
He will see the doctor again this week, but, while he has returned to coaching, he said he will follow the doctor’s orders.
“Hopefully I’ll have another good report, and then we’ll go from there,” he said. “And I have to be smart and listen to the doctor.”