EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Mike Zimmer was back at practice with the Minnesota Vikings on Tuesday, not quite a week after surgery to repair a detached retina.
Except for the white patch that was taped over his right eye, the players didn’t see any difference in their hard-driving head coach.
"He still can see everything, with one patch over his eye. He still knows," cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. "You made a mistake, he’s still seen it."
Zimmer roamed the indoor field and instructed players as usual during the portion of the workout that was open to the media, eager to resume his responsibilities in an attempt to help steer the Vikings (6-6) back on a track for the playoffs following six losses in their past seven games.
"Eye patch or no eye patch," wide receiver Stefon Diggs said, "he’s the same coach."
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The 60-year-old Zimmer had to stay home from the game against Dallas last Thursday because of the emergency operation the night before, one of multiple procedures he’s had over the past six weeks.
Zimmer is expected to travel with the team for the game on Sunday at Jacksonville, barring any setback.
"To have him back, to talk to us and to be our leader, man, it was great. It kind of motivated guys that we’ve got to get this thing going," Munnerlyn said.
The Vikings didn’t make Zimmer available to reporters, but in an interview with the team’s flagship radio station KFAN-FM he said he predictably struggled with having to watch the game on TV rather than directing it from the sideline.
When Zimmer addressed the players the day of the Cowboys game, he became emotional and struggled to finish his speech.
"Basically that I would never let them down, that I would never abandon them, that I could be with them every possible moment that I could be," Zimmer told KFAN, "and it was just unfortunate that this is what this has to be this one particular time."
Zimmer also said he’s been compliant with the doctor’s orders, despite the public assumption that he’s too proud or stubborn to slow down and take proper care of himself.
"I understand the seriousness of the issue and what it is," Zimmer said.
"If they tell me it’s in my best interest to sit in a box during the game or it’s in my best interest to not go to the game or there’s a possibility of me losing this eyesight in this eye, then I’m going to listen to them."
Zimmer said he’s currently not supposed to cast his gaze above the horizon or lift heavy objects, but for now he’s OK to take the team flight to Florida because in his latest operation there was an oil-based substance injected into his eye after a fluid removal instead of an oxygen-based substance. His follow-up appointment revealed the retina had re-attached.
"Everything looks good," he said. "I have to have this monitored probably weekly now for the next several months, but I’m just trying to get it fixed."
NOTES: Missing from practice for the Vikings was safety Harrison Smith, who was on crutches with a boot on his left foot after the previous game. … Center Joe Berger (concussion) was back on the field after being sidelined against Dallas. … Punt returner Marcus Sherels (rib) also returned to practice after missing the past two games.