EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. -- The ornery side of head coach Mike Zimmer vowed last week to return to Winter Park, "with one eye or two." Retirement, he said to anyone who was floating the idea, was still out of the question even after an eighth surgery on his right eye since last November.
Monday, Zimmer returned to the Minnesota Vikings after taking two weeks of forced rest and relaxation at his ranch in Kentucky. Tuesday, he spoke to reporters after an OTA practice and said he was more optimistic about the long-term health of his eye than ever before. He also joked that his only limitation was the number of press conferences he can give.
"Sunday afternoon, the doctor met me at his office and checked the eyes," Zimmer said as he opened his press conference. "We can get this out of the way. He said everything is good."
Zimmer has battled eye problems since scratching the eye during the loss at Chicago on Monday Night Football on Halloween. He was diagnosed with a detached retina and has had numerous complications while missing the team's loss to the Cowboys late last season.
Asked if there is anything he's not able to do, Zimmer said, "Moderation is the term to use. The pressure (in the eye) is good. The (oil) bubble (placed in the eye) is dissolving. The retina is in good shape. But, really, all (the doctor) said was, 'Just be smart.'"
Whether Zimmer has been smart throughout this ordeal is debatable. He could have waited another week to return for next week's three-day minicamp. But Zimmer, who turned 61 on Monday, isn't the relaxing-away-from-football type. General manager Rick Spielman and the team's medical staff had to force Zimmer to be driven home to Kentucky so he could rest for at least a couple weeks.
Zimmer said he's still having trouble seeing.
"It is hard to see through the bubble, but above the bubble I can see and below the bubble I can see," Zimmer said. "I can see right and left. The vision is pretty good. It is hard to tell if it is 20/20 or 20/800 because you cannot really tell any of that, but I can see decent. It is just annoying sometimes when you're seeing like a glass of water over here (behind the bubble)."
For what it's worth, Zimmer doesn't think the eye will give him any trouble once training camp begins in late July.
"This is probably the most optimistic, I would guess (I've been)," he said. "They put the bubble in there to keep the retina in place, and at this point, the bubble is only helping when I am sleeping. ... So I am hopeful."
With Zimmer gone, coordinators Pat Shurmur and George Edwards directed the offense and defense, respectively. Defensive line coach Andre Patterson, whose relationship with Zimmer goes back to Weber State decades ago, was the one who passed along Zimmer's messages during team meetings and while breaking down the post-practice huddle.
"I thought the players did a great job of understanding the situation and trying to stay with the things we are trying to progress to, and the coaches did a great job of working together," said Zimmer, who watched film of each practice while at home. "That is always hard when you got offense going against defense and things like that, but they worked together very well. They listened to all of the direction that I gave them each day. They did a really good job, so I am very lucky and very fortunate to have not only the coaches that I have, but the team that I have."