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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer finally relented, taking some time away from the team to allow his right eye a proper recovery from his latest surgery.

Better in the spring than during the fall, he realized.

As Zimmer departed Monday for some rest and relaxation at his vacation ranch in rural Kentucky, general manager Rick Spielman said the organization anticipates a return by Zimmer “in a few weeks.” Players will take the field Tuesday for the first of 13 scheduled offseason practices, including the three-day mandatory minicamp that runs June 13-15.

“We all agree Mike’s health is the priority, and we believe rest and recovery are in his best interest for the long term,” Spielman said.

Zimmer directed a free youth football camp Saturday at team headquarters. He revealed to reporters that he underwent an eighth procedure on the eye last week, a trying seven-month stretch that has included several unplanned operations.

He had the first surgery Nov. 1 to repair a torn retina, and a subsequent procedure kept him from coaching the team Dec. 1 against Dallas. That’s the only game he has missed in his three-decade career in the NFL. When the Vikings played Dec. 11 at Jacksonville, Zimmer wore a large patch over the eye for protection.

Zimmer said the operation last week involved the removal of a silicone oil bubble from the eye and the insertion of an oxygen gas bubble. That triggered a six-week prohibition for him from air travel. He said he hopes the latest surgery was his last but acknowledged he’s believed that before, only to need another procedure.

In an interview with KFAN-FM , shortly after leaving his eye doctor’s office, Zimmer said he was told following his latest examination that the retina “looked perfect” with total attachment and no weak spots. The internal pressure in his eye had also been significantly decreased, thus lowering his risk of developing glaucoma.

“At this point now, we just need to take it easy and make sure it continues to heal the right way,” Zimmer told KFAN, the team’s flagship radio station. He added: “This is probably the best it’s ever been, and if I don’t screw it up by going out and yelling at players and doing things that I shouldn’t be doing, then this will be the best result that we’ve had.”

Hence his upcoming absence from practice.

Zimmer said he “was the one pushing back” on the hiatus, but the Vikings will send him daily video of the activities on the field for his review on his iPad.

“It’s unfortunate timing, but it’s more important to do it now than during the season,” Zimmer said.

Though he wasn’t the one driving, Zimmer said he was looking forward to the road trip, while keeping his eye focused below the horizon to reduce the strain. Cheese in Wisconsin? Hot dogs in Chicago? Nothing was off the table, except stress.

“Who knows what we’re going to do?” Zimmer said. “Just kind of relax and enjoy ourselves.”


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