Mike Zimmer did not coach for the Minnesota Vikings in Thursday night’s game against Dallas at U.S. Bank Stadium after having emergency eye surgery Wednesday night. Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer served as interim head coach.
General manager Rick Spielman made the announcement in a conference call Thursday morning.
“The most important thing is the concern for Coach Zimmer and his health,’’ Spielman said. “I expressed to him specifically that potentially going blind in one eye is not worth one game in the NFL.’’
Wednesday’s surgery was to repair a detached retina in Zimmer’s right eye, his third surgery since early November. Spielman said Zimmer had been doing fine all week until he had trouble seeing during a team walk-through Wednesday afternoon.
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Zimmer scratched his right eye during the Vikings’ 20-10 loss at Chicago on Oct. 31 and had surgery to fix a torn retina on Nov. 1. He had a second surgery on Nov. 8.
Spielman said the third surgery was scheduled after a follow-up visit to the doctor on Thursday morning. Thursday was the first time Zimmer has missed a game in 23 years as an NFL assistant and head coach.
“As much as he wants to be out there coaching, it’s in his best interests to get this taken care of,” Spielman said.
“As hard-headed as he is, and as tough-minded as he is, we’ve had some pretty significant talks, one-on-one, heart-to-heart, on what is important in life. … You have to look out for what’s best for you, and that’s the No. 1 concern. He finally came to realize that, but it’s difficult for him to handle, because of his personality, because of his perseverance, because of him wanting to be out there.”
Spielman declined to speculate on whether Zimmer could miss more than Thursday’s game, saying the Vikings are taking his situation a day at a time.
Zimmer was a Dallas assistant from 1994-2006, serving as defensive coordinator the final seven seasons.