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Zimmer dons eyepatch for Vikings practice

MINNEAPOLIS -- Mike Zimmer was back at practice for the Vikings on Tuesday, wearing a patch over his right eye. The Minnesota coach missed last Thursday's 17-15 loss to Dallas at U.S. Bank Stadium following emergency eye surgery the night before ...

Oct 9, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer looks on prior to the game against the Houston Texans at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 9, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer looks on prior to the game against the Houston Texans at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

MINNEAPOLIS - Mike Zimmer was back at practice for the Vikings on Tuesday, wearing a patch over his right eye.

The Minnesota coach missed last Thursday's 17-15 loss to Dallas at U.S. Bank Stadium following emergency eye surgery the night before to repair a detached retina. Zimmer had another surgery on his eye Friday morning, his fourth since Nov. 1, before returning to work Monday.

The Vikings said Zimmer is expected to coach Sunday's game against the Jaguars at Jacksonville. Zimmer was not made available for comment Tuesday, but told KFXN-FM he received a "good report" Saturday from his doctor and is "planning to be in Jacksonville" unless something changes.

There has been speculation Zimmer might not be able to fly. He said, however, that doctors "put an oil-base substance in my eye as opposed to an oxygen-based substance,'' giving him no restrictions on flying.

"I'm going to do what the doctors tell me to do," Zimmer told KFXN. "I understand the seriousness of the issue and what it is. If they tell me it's in my best interest to sit in the box during the (Jacksonville) game or it's in my best interest to not go to the game or there's a possibility of losing my eyesight in this eye, I'm going to listen to them.

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"I think there's a lot of speculation out there that says I'm not doing what the doctors are telling me what to do. I don't believe that's right."

Zimmer said he has some restrictions, such as not to look up, jump around a lot or lift heavy objects. He said it has been a "trying" time of late, primarily because he was away from the team.

The Vikings (6-6) have lost six of their past seven games. Zimmer said they have "no margin of era" in their hope to make the playoffs.

"I feel like I've let an awful lot of people down - the players, the fans, the coaches - because there's a lot of people counting on me," Zimmer told the station. "So that makes it a little bit more difficult. But I have to try to manipulate things to do the best that I can for everybody involved."

Vikings players welcomed Zimmer back for their first practice since the loss to Dallas.

"It was good, man," cornerback Captain Munnelryn said. "We try not to put so much stress on him. Everybody's got to go out there to do the right things, so he won't have to yell and do the extra stuff."

Naturally, though, there some mistakes in practice.

"He can close his eyes and see mistakes, I'm 100 percent positive of that," said cornerback Terence Newman. "He can (coach) with his eyes closed. But it is awesome to get our leader back."

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Zimmer told KFXN he received an email Tuesday that helped put matters in perspective.

"I got (an email) from a (member of a) firebomb squadron, who had a detached retina," Zimmer said. "He talked about his struggles and things like that. So I'm not the only one that has to go through these kinds of things. I have to figure out a way on how to fix this football team. ... Obviously, I have to take my health into consideration."

Zimmer scratched his right eye during the Vikings' 20-10 loss at Chicago on Oct. 31 and had surgery to repair a torn retina the next day, on Nov. 1. He had a second surgery Nov. 8.

Zimmer had a third surgery scheduled for last Friday, but that was moved up to Wednesday night when he had difficulty reading game-related material following a team walk-through.

"I went home and was looking at my game sheets and things that I do, and I could tell that my vision was getting worse," Zimmer told KFXN. "There was an awful lot of discussion about (whether to coach against the Cowboys), and the more people I talked to and the more that persuaded me I guess is that it was the right thing to do."

Zimmer was replaced against the Cowboys by special teams coordinator Mike Priefer because Zimmer had determined that would be least disruptive move for the offensive and defensive coordinators. He said the decision to go that route had been made a few weeks earlier in case he had to miss a game.

Zimmer had an emotional meeting with his players before last week's game at the team hotel; he said he told them he "would never let them down" and "never abandon them." NBC reported during the game that Zimmer's son, Vikings linebacker Adam Zimmer, said he would listen to the game on the radio, but Zimmer said he watched it on television.

"I was supposed to not get excited and things like that," Zimmer said. "I did a pretty good job for the most part until at times near at the end of the football game. It was hard, I guess."

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Zimmer said he was hoping to "get another good report" from his doctor on a visit either later Tuesday or on Wednesday. He said he will need to be checked weekly over the next several months.

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