The Minnesota Vikings confirmed Mike Zimmer will not coach the team during a Thursday Night Football game in Week 13 against the Dallas Cowboys after undergoing emergency surgery on his eye Wednesday night.
“We felt this was for the best interest of his health,” Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said. “I expressed to him specifically that not going blind in one eye is more important than one game in the NFL.”
As he begins his recovery, Zimmer will listen to Thursday’s game on the radio instead of trying to watch it. A team source told NFL Network’s Stacey Dales that Zimmer doesn’t want to use his eyes so soon after surgery. Zimmer won’t know for 24 to 48 hours whether the operation was successful.
Spielman also confirmed that special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will fill in as the interim head coach during Zimmer’s recovery. Defensive coordinator George Edwards will take over Zimmer’s role running the defense.
"We have the utmost confidence in Mike Priefer that he will be able to handle the interim responsibilities." - Rick Spielman— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) December 1, 2016
Surprisingly, Zimmer’s surgery to repair a detached retina didn’t immediately rule him out for Thursday even though it happened about 24 hours before the game.
“His status for coaching tomorrow’s game is uncertain,” Spielman said in a statement Wednesday night. “I have met with the coaches and players and we have a contingency plan in place if Mike is unable to coach against Dallas."
Priefer has been the Vikings’ special teams coordinator since 2011, pre-dating Zimmer who arrived in Minnesota in 2014.
"We are taking it one day at a time,” Spielman said Thursday. “We want to get through tonight's game and then tomorrow we will reassess where we're at."
The Vikings have lost in five of the last six weeks after starting the season 5-0. After a Week 13 game against the Dallas Cowboys, the Vikings finish the year with four consecutive games against teams that currently have a losing record, including the Jacksonville Jaguars and Chicago Bears.