Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer isn’t with the team in their first week of organized team activities, but he’s cleared to watch film and doing what he can to stay involved from afar (his ranch in Kentucky) while he recovers from his eighth surgery to correct vision in his right eye.
“Hopefully this will resolve his issue. He does need to rest and recover. The best thing about it is he’s 12 hours away so I know he can’t drive back to the office every day,” Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said Wednesday. “He is capable of watching tape. He has watched practice tape. He’s in communication with our coaches and making the corrections with the coaches.”
Spielman said the first OTA practice without Zimmer on Tuesday was “very smooth” and Wednesday’s went off without an obvious hitch, too.
The three coordinators remain in charge of their units and Mike’s son Adam is charge of the overall practice. Defensive line coach Andre Patterson was put in charge of relaying messages from Zimmer in the team meetings.
While Zimmer is cleared to watch film, Spielman declined to say whether the amount of time viewing it was supposed to be limited.
A statement released by the Vikings on Monday saying that Zimmer would be out for a “few weeks” said that all agreed a leave of absence was the best thing for Zimmer. But that was followed up by Zimmer telling the Vikings’ flagship radio station, KFAN, that he tried to buck the advice to leave for a recovery period.
“I will just say Coach Zimmer is very hard-headed in a lot of things and sometimes, just like these players, you’ve just got to make sure that your health comes first,” Spielman said. “Hopefully this surgery, which we’re very optimistic about, will be the surgery that has corrected the detached retina and the vision problems that he does have.”
Spielman said the Vikings are “very excited” about the latest surgery, hoping that it is the final one that will result in corrected vision. But he admitted that having eight surgeries in less than seven months has been “very tolling” on Zimmer.
The Vikings plan to reevaluate the situation after a couple of weeks and wait until then to make a determination if Zimmer will return for minicamp.
“But I know that there’s no question he’s still in charge of this football team and what’s going on between the white lines,” Spielman said.
“Hopefully … this is the time where he can catch his breath, relax a little bit but still be heavily involved with his football team and that he’s ready to go as quickly as he can be.”
The Vikings waited until now to send Zimmer away because he wanted to be able to travel to the Senior Bowl, the NFL Scouting Combine and pro days in the ramp-up to the NFL draft. After those were complete, he had the surgery that all hope will be his last.
“The biggest thing is him not being here on the practice field yelling and screaming, putting in the time and energy that he does into this job,” Spielman said. “To just get away and to let it heal and let it recover.”