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Mike Zimmer: “I’ll Be Back, One Eye Or Two”

The head coach is determined to not let his eye issues affect his coaching career

NFL: Combine Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

The issues that Minnesota Vikings’ head coach Mike Zimmer has been dealing with in his right eye have been well-documented. He’s had eight surgeries on the eye since 1 November, and has finally gotten to the point where he was ordered to stay away from the team’s Organized Team Activities in order to focus on recovering.

In a conference call that he held with the Twin Cities media this past week, Zimmer was asked about keeping confidence in his doctors, and attempted to put to bed any speculation that this could potentially end his career as a head coach in the NFL.

Q: Has it been difficult to maintain confidence in your doctors?

A: I think when you have this many things you always think about other scenarios but I really do think that they’re doing the right things and that it’s just been one thing after another. I would like to put to rest, unfortunately I have too much time on my hands now, so I hear about ‘oh, this might shorten his coaching career’ and all these things. Like I texted Kyle Rudolph, I said, ‘hey, I’ll be back shortly with one eye or two, doesn’t really matter, I’m going to be back.’ So, we can put that me retiring thing or whatever to bed quickly.

Now, that sounds pretty bad ass, I’ll admit. But, hopefully, it doesn’t come to that for the coach. Hopefully this most recent surgery will be the one that finally fixes all of the issues that Zimmer is having, but I think that we all want his health to be of the greatest importance. I’m sure that Zimmer is treating it that way as well.

Below, you can read the full transcript of Zimmer’s conference call from earlier this week, where he addresses his recovery. He also talks about some of the individual performances he’s seen courtesy of the video he’s received from the Vikings’ OTAs this past week.

First, I’d just like to say thank you for the coverage you did with the foundation last week with the football camp. I think it was really good for the kids and the community. I was very thankful for the players and the coaches that showed up. As far as an update, there really isn’t much to tell. I went to the doctor here in Cincinnati on Wednesday and the pressure was good, so that’s a good thing. They’ve got me off some of the drops that I was on, so that we can get the pressure back normalized again a little bit. I talked to the doctor last night, I just called him and we were talking and I said, ‘When I look down, the bubble kind of goes up in my eye and I look down and I can see pretty clearly.’ He said that’s a really good sign. Other than that, that’s pretty much it. That and I’ve been watching the tape every day of the practices. We have a staff meeting at 3:30 on a conference call and I [Inaudible]…everything on the practice, I’m not too sure that the coaches like that too much. I’ve been getting a lot of well wishes from fans and people that have had retina issues, coaches around the league and players. It’s all been good support-wise.

Q: What has it been like to have to be away from the team during OTAs?

A: Yeah, it’s not much fun. Usually I love it down here at my place here but I don’t love it too much this week. It was kind of a forced situation but I guess in the long run it’s the best thing for me.

Q: How connected do you feel with being able to have the meetings over the phone and still watch film?

A: The players are probably getting tired of me texting them because I text them things that I see on tape and then I talk to the coaches and make sure they relay it. The coaches have done a great job relaying the message from one practice to another about things that I think we have to get better at, things that we have to do better. Really, in all three phases. That part has really not been that bad. 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.

Q: Are you limited in the number of hours that you can view film?

A: No, not really. What I’m trying to do is after practice I’ll probably watch the practice film of the defense and then I’ll take a break. That might take an hour and a half or something and then I’ll take a break. In the evening, I’ll watch the offense, which is basically the same plays you just see it from a different angle. I’ve been pretty smart about it. I take a lot of breaks and get on my quad and ride around the property a little bit so I’m not looking at the iPad all the time. There really is no regulations on what I’m supposed to do.

Q: Where is the vision itself at right now?

A: In the right eye, there’s a gas bubble in there so you can’t see through the gas bubble. That’s why I say it’s basically like looking through a water balloon. When I had the check up on Wednesday the bubble had reduced from 95 percent to now it’s a little less than 60, so, when the bubble is not there I can see. If I’m looking straight ahead, I can’t see because the bubble is there. The big thing is when the bubble dissolves, which it will, however long it takes. The biggest question honestly is, I think now that we got the pressure thing under control, is will the retina stay in place? Because the bubble is kind of like a band-aid to make sure the retina stays in place so that it stays in the right spot. As long as when the bubble dissolves, the retina stays there, then everything should be good to go.

Q: What does rest entail?

A: Yeah, my house is done. Just kind of cleaning up the house a lot I guess, I don’t know. I go for a walk. This morning I went up to my neighbors and had breakfast. I go out on my quad and drive around the property a little bit. Nothing very strenuous, just relaxed. I fished a bit yesterday and the day before. Just stuff like that.

Q: What is it about Andre Patterson that you trust him to stand up and share your message while you’re gone?

A: Well, Andre knows me probably better than anyone there including Adam [Zimmer]. We were together at Weber State a long time ago, Washington State and Dallas. We sat in meetings forever and ever so I just know that when I tell, not that there’s anything different about any of other coaches, but when I tell Andre to do something with the team or to relay a message, I know that it’ll get done and it’ll get done in the right way.

Q: Do you have a plan yet for when you will return?

A: Yeah, the plan is right now to come back June 4th and I’ll have a doctors appointment on the 5th. Hopefully at that point, we’re good to go.

Q: Have you given any thought to just coaching with one eye for the rest of your career?

A: Yeah, quite honestly I don’t want to go blind in this eye, but if it is that’s what it is. I think Bob [Hagan] told me the other day they’re over 400 celebrities that have only one eye and they do just fine. So, this will not keep me from coaching. The doctors have told me, because I asked them one time “is this a lost cause?” If it is, just let it go. He said, “No, it’s not like that. If it was, I would tell you.” Obviously, I’ve thought about it. This is not going to keep me from coaching one way or the other.

Q: From watching the tape, do you have a general idea of where the offense is?

A: Yeah, I like a lot of things that we’re doing schematically. It’s still a work in progress in some areas. But, the coaches are doing a good job of implementing. We’ve had a lot of different situations that we still have to get better at. We had inside the five-yard line deal yesterday. We had a two-minute drill yesterday and a team redzone yesterday. So, there’s a lot of special situations that I’ve got in there for practice. I’m optimistic about it. You really don’t know until you get the pads on. You can see more with the receivers, the tight end and the quarterback than you can with the offensive line. The offensive line is not making many mental mistakes. They look like they’re all making the same things technique-wise. Some guys so far have been stepping up, but again it is without pads. This is just the basis of getting ready before going down to training camp, where we’ll get everything back together.

Q: What are your impressions of Michael Floyd in his first week with the team?

A: I think he’s made some good catches. He’s done a good job with understanding of the routes. He’s catching up a little bit because he’s missed some of the workouts and things like that in phase two, where they got the chance to go out there and run routes. He caught a hitch the other day and made the DB miss, so it ended up being a 12-yard gain. Those things are there, but again it’s early. He does add some dimensions to our offense.

Q: What were you seeing from Laquon Treadwell in his 2nd year before you went back to Kentucky?

A: Laquon is an extremely hard worker, maybe he works too hard. He’ll come in the evenings and work. But, he’s been running routes good and he’s caught the ball well. Even in these first few days, Bradford made a nice deep throw to him that he caught and adjusted well. I think you guys were there that day. He’s catching the ball really well and he’s running good routes. I think he’s developing a trust with the quarterback and the most important thing is that quarterback trusts the receivers to be at the right place. He’s looked much different than he did a year ago.

Q: Does Treadwell look like he has his burst back after dealing with injuries the past couple of years?

A: Yeah, I think he looks good. He’s stopping and starting. Some of the routes that he’s been running as far as when he has to plant and comeback I thought he’s done pretty well. He’s run some good routes to accelerate over the middle and you obviously saw him catch the deep ball the other day. So, I think he just feels so much more comfortable now than he did a year ago.

Q: I know he’s not practicing, but does it give you a lift to see Teddy Bridgewater working out on the field?

A: Yeah, and I saw that in phase two. So, I was able to see that. At that point he was throwing the ball really well. He had good velocity and accurate. When you’ve seen a guy working his rear-end off, it just makes you proud for him for the work that he’s put in. He’s progressing as well as anybody could have expected I think.

Q: What have you seen out of Mackensie Alexander in these OTAs than what you saw in him last year?

A: Well, it looks like he’s grown up quite a bit. He’s matured a lot. We’ve had him in there at the nickel position and he’s done a really good job. He’s been impressive these first three days. Very few mental mistakes and he’s a really good athlete. He’s got great acceleration and when he goes out to corner he does a nice job as well. But, for right now he’s focusing really hard on the nickel position. I’ve been impressed. He’s done a nice job in run support and he’s done a good job in coverage areas. When he’s had to cover guys one-on-one he’s done a good job. So, if he’ll continue to keep the same attitude, mindset that he has I think it’s all systems go for him.

Q: Do you think his rookie year was kind of eye opening for him?

A: You’d have to ask him that. I know that he probably thought he should’ve been playing more. But, I don’t think he really knew to go about doing things the right way. This is how much the kid’s grown up, so he actually spoke to our rookies the other day. He talked to them about how he’s grown from last year with some of his attitude things and what he could’ve done better. Hopefully some of these rookies were listening.

Q: When you’re watching practice and you see something you don’t’ like, do you call up the player and let them have it, send them a text or let it go?

A: A lot of the guys I just send them a text and just tell them what I see technical-wise. There’s been things like you’ve got to play with your knees bent more, you need to work on your first-step, you’ve to run to the ball better, whatever. It’s also positive things too. Then the meeting with the coaches I go through each period and talk to them about the things I’ve seen with number one being schematic things. I talk to them about players and tell them what I want to get done and how I want to get it done. We talk about everything as if I were sitting there, but I’m not sure the coaches like it because my meetings over the phone are much longer than when I’m there because I have to go through everything. I go through each period with them and I tell them what was good, what was bad and what we need to correct. I ask them questions about five-steps, why we did this? And why we did that? If we busted protection, who busted it? And why did they bust it? We had a false start the other day on third down and I want to know why we had that. It’s really all of those.