MINNEAPOLIS (AP) Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has had a lot of time on his hands this week while sitting at home on his Kentucky ranch as his team went through optional practices in the Twin Cities.
Zimmer was under strict orders to leave the team and rest his right eye, which has needed eight surgeries to try to repair a detached retina. The lingering issues have led some to wonder if he would be forced to shorten his career.
Zimmer has heard the speculation all week long. The hard-nosed coach said he has reached out to some of those doubters personally this week.
''I'll be back shortly,'' Zimmer vowed in a conference call with reporters on Friday. ''One eye or two, it doesn't matter. I'll be back. We can put that retiring thing to bed quickly.''
Zimmer missed one game last season due to the problems with his eye . He tried to work through the issues, but said on Friday that he was told to skip this week's practices and go home to allow his eye to recover.
''It's not much fun,'' he said. ''Usually I love it down here in my place here. But I don't love it too much this week. It was kind of a forced situation. But for the long run it's the best thing for me.''
He has still kept close tabs on the operations at Vikings headquarters. He has the practice video sent to his iPad and has held an afternoon conference call every day with his coaches to go over what he sees. Longtime confidant Andre Patterson, the Vikings defensive line coach, is serving as Zimmer's personal messenger this week.
''The coaches have done a great job relaying the message from one practice to another about things I think we have to get better at, things we have to do better in all three phases. That part really has not been that bad,'' Zimmer 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.''
Running back Jerick McKinnon joked earlier this week that the practices have been quieter without the fiery Zimmer around. But the coach said he has texted players often to deliver messages about what to improve on. If all goes well, Zimmer plans on returning to Minnesota on June 4 and meeting with doctors the following day.
So he will be back for OTAs on June 5-8 and for minicamp June 13-15, provided he is cleared by doctors.
''Hopefully at that point we're good to go,'' Zimmer said.
Zimmer met with an eye doctor in Cincinnati who told him things are progressing well. There is a gas bubble in his right eye to hold the retina in place, but it also severely limits the coach's vision.
Once the bubble dissolves, Zimmer will find out if the retina can stay in place on its own. He said he has had conversations with doctors about the possibility of losing vision in that eye, but so far has been told that his condition seems to be improving enough that blindness could be avoided.
''Obviously I've thought about it, but this is not going to keep me from coaching one way or another,'' Zimmer said.
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