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Zimmer to take time off from Vikings after 8th eye surgery

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer on the sidelines during the second half of an NFL football game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on Sunday, Dec. 11, 2017. Reinhold Matay / USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS — Vikings coach Mike Zimmer will leave the team for a short period to recover from his eighth eye surgery, including missing organized team activities this week.

“Coach Zimmer will be taking time away from the team to dedicate to recovering from eye surgery and restoring his health," general manager Rick Spielman said in a statement Monday. “We all agree Mike’s health is the priority and we believe rest and recovery are in his best interest for the long term. We anticipate Mike back on the field in a few weeks.''

The Vikings have three scheduled organized team activities sessions: Tuesday through Thursday, May 30-June 1 and June 5-8. They have a mandatory minicamp June 13-15.

Speaking at his youth football camp Saturday, Zimmer said he had surgery on his right eye last Wednesday, his eighth since he scratched it in an Oct. 31 game at Chicago and was diagnosed with a torn retina and later a detached retina.

“It’s so complicated, but they took the silicone oil out," Zimmer said Saturday. “They put the gas bubble in.''

Zimmer was driven Monday to his ranch in Kentucky, where he will take his time off. He can’t fly for six weeks after the surgery, and doctors didn’t want Zimmer to drive himself because of elevation changes on the route.

The decision was made for Zimmer to take time off after he visited Monday with eye doctors.

“We had a long meeting about what’s best … and they think that I need to spend the next couple weeks just working on my recovery,’’ Zimmer said in an interview with KFAN-FM 100.3. “But I left the doctor’s office, got really good news, the retina looks great, the pressure in my eye is really good.’’

Zimmer said in the interview he had developed a cataract because of so many surgeries, which necessitated last week’s procedure.

Asked Saturday if his latest surgery was the final one, Zimmer said, “I thought that before. We’ll see."

Zimmer told KFAN he will receive video of each practice. Coordinators will fulfill their usual roles, and linebackers coach Adam Zimmer, his son, and defensive line coach Andre Patterson will have additional duties in relaying instructions from Zimmer.

“We all want Coach Zimmer better,’’ said Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen. “He needs to get his eye back healthy so he can use both of his eyes this season. He needs to take the time off. We’ve got to go out there and have good OTAs.’’

Griffen doesn’t deny practices will be different without Zimmer.

“You can feel his presence,’’ Griffen said. “It’s going to be a little weird not having Coach Zimmer because we love him. But it’s up to the team to be professionals. We know that we’ve got to go out there and work like we normally do because he's going to be watching the tape.’’

Zimmer, 60, told KFAN he resisted taking time off initially but soon realized it was for the best.

“I was the one pushing back on it because I know how important it is to be with the team and try to accomplish the things you want to get accomplished in these OTAs," he said. “But we've got a great bunch of coaches and they do a good job. … It’s unfortunate timing but it’s more important to do it now than during the season."

Zimmer’s first surgery was on Nov. 1, the day after the Chicago game, to fix a torn retina. He had emergency surgery on Nov. 30 to repair a detached retina, keeping him out of a Dec. 1 loss to Dallas, the only game he has missed in his 23-year NFL career.

The Pioneer Press is a Forum News Service media partner.