Mike Zimmer is seeing progress in his vision after the eighth surgery to his right eye, but whether his eye ever completely recovers or not, the Minnesota Vikings head coach will continue to do what he loves.
Any rumors of the detached retina shortening his coaching career can be put to bed, Zimmer said Friday on a conference call. He’s coaching the Vikings again soon, whether that’s with one good eye or two.
“Quite honestly, I don’t want to go blind in this eye, but if that’s what it is, that’s what it is,” Zimmer said after his first week of leave from practices to recover. “There’s a lot of people – the doc told me the other day there’s over 400 celebrities that have one eye.
“This will not keep me from coaching. The doctor told me, because I asked him at one time if this was a lost cause and we should just let it go, and he said, ‘No, it’s not like that and if it was I would tell you.’ Obviously I’ve thought about it, but this is not going to keep me from coaching one way or another.”
Although the Vikings said in a statement earlier this week that all agreed Zimmer taking “a few weeks” off would be the best path to recovery, Zimmer has indicated it was a more a forced leave of absence, even if he might agree with the sentiment.
The plan now is for him to have a follow-up appointment with the doctor on June 5 and “hopefully at that point we’re good to go.”
In the meantime, he has been daily reviewing film of Vikings practices from his home in Kentucky, splitting up about 90 minutes of defense, taking a break, then returning for the offense.
“It’s not much fun. Usually I love it down here in my place here. But I don’t love it too much this week,” he said. “It was kind of a forced situation. But for the long run it’s the best thing for me.”
A doctor’s visit in Cincinnati on Wednesday revealed that the pressure in his right eye was down and he is able to discontinue using drops designed to relieve the pressure.
Zimmer gets on a call with coaches in the afternoon to review the film, picking apart each session.
“I’m trying to be smart about it. I take a lot of breaks,” he said. “I’ll get on my quad and ride around the property a little bit so I’m not looking at the iPad all the time. But there really is no regulations on what I’m supposed to do.”
Taking walks, ride his quad and even having breakfast with neighbors have also been part of his routine.
But, while he says he is trying to relax, he is maintaining daily contact with coaches and players. A teacher has to teach.
“Players are probably getting tired of me texting them because I text them things I see on tape,” he said. “… I do miss being in the meetings with the players and I miss especially being out on the field where I can give immediate feedback to technique and things like that.”
Zimmer compares the sight in his right eye to looking through a water balloon. That’s an effect caused by a gas bubble that is keeping his retina in place while it heals. That bubble is intended to dissipate over time and it has, from 95 percent to less than 60 percent by Wednesday.
When Zimmer looks straight ahead with the bubble in place, he can’t see. When he looks down and the bubble stays high, he has better vision. The doctors tell him that’s a good sign.
Keeping the retina in place and the pressure down are the keys, he said.
“As long as when the bubble dissolves and the retina stays there, everything should be good to go,” he said.
“I’ve been getting a lot of well wishes from fans and people that have retina issues and coaches around the league. So it’s all been good to be supported.”