For the last seven months, Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer has been dealing with the effects of a detached retina that has been a story that has brought out everyone from players to medical professionals to obvious laymen interpreting what doctors say and making themselves sound like de facto experts – all providing their opinions and diagnoses on Zimmer’s condition.
As a refresher to those new to the party or with short attention spans, Zimmer had his first surgery Nov. 1, 2016 – the day after the Vikings’ first loss of the 2016 season at Chicago. He acknowledged that he had scratched his right eye during the game and it required an eye procedure.
At the time, it was a “sucks to be you” type situation, like a guy who tears a hamstring playing softball beyond him prime athletic years. That’s gonna hurt, but, once medicos get their hands working, they’ll fix it and you’ll move on with the next chapter of your life.
However, it didn’t work out that way and has been an odyssey that has taken numerous turns, many of them relatively dangerous.
Much of the initial Zimmer news, other than the obvious dressing over his eye that provided the visual element to complement the report on the situation, was overshadowed by the unexpected resignation of offensive coordinator Norv Turner. While there was initial concern over Zimmer’s eye condition, it was viewed as a relatively routine procedure that happens to people far and wide. It was an accident and, like most medical situations, surgery is never the preferred option, but it was viewed as a permanent fix.
Nothing has been permanent since then.
As the calendar flipped to December, things began to escalate and it was becoming painfully apparent that Zimmer’s condition was more troubling than initially thought, admitted or reported. At first, Zimmer was facing criticism when amateur doctors with WebMD access had the ability to read/diagnose recovery procedures. Among the first admonition was to completely relax the injured eye and not put any undue strain doing things that could damage the other eye – things like reading, watching television or, with some job descriptions, watching countless hours of game tape.
Zimmer came off as a loveable tough guy who is too grizzled to obey doctor’s orders. A month later, situation normal was much more in the SNAFU realm on the Zimmer eye front.
He missed the Thursday night game at U.S. Bank Stadium against Dallas after having emergency surgery on Nov. 30. He had a follow-up procedure that got the outside chatter blowing up – thousands of fake lab coats were donned as novices became experts without the benefit of the facts, a journalistic cornerstone becoming more diluted all the time.
There briefly were scenarios thrown out that, because Zimmer was not advised to fly, he could take a tricked-out tour bus to the next game. Had it been Chicago or Green Bay, it may have become a reality, with Zimmer rolling large into town like a far-less-provocative Bret Michaels.
However, the game was in Jacksonville – geographically as far away as a game could possibly be given the Vikings’ 2016 schedule and a “rolling down the highway” scenario. If it was even going to go from fantasy to reality, the logistics made the Zim Tour out of the question.
Three surgeries in, despite being advised not to fly by medical professionals, he joined the team on the flight to Jacksonville as the Vikings attempted to stop the bleeding of their 2016 season.
Since then, Zimmer has had five more procedures done on his right eye, which not only dealt with the retina, but also a cataract.
For those who have chickened out on Lasik surgery simply for the reason that any outside contact with an eye is inappropriate touch – much less with lasers – Zimmer’s ordeal is borderline catastrophic.
At some point, the legitimate question needs to be asked if Zimmer’s health is more important than his coaching job … at least in the short-term. Zimmer is widely acknowledged as a legitimate tough guy who would risk an eye for his team – he already has by previous actions and decisions.
For those back-end 40 players currently on the roster looking to make an impression on the coaching staff during the OTA period, having Zimmer sidelined could prevent some of them from getting firsthand opportunities to make an impression on the guy who is going to make all the end-game tough calls as to who stays and who goes.
If there is a silver lining to the Zimmer situation, it is that he is finally taking doctor’s orders and, if there is going to a final fix that keeps Zimmer able to see out of both eyes, his last eye surgery will hopefully turn out to actually be his last eye surgery.
As Zimmer can attest, eight is enough.