Sam Ekstrom contributed to this report.
The Minnesota Vikings released a statement Wednesday night that head coach Mike Zimmer would be undergoing an emergency eye surgery.
Mike Zimmer is having emergency eye surgery tonight. His status for coaching tomorrow’s game is uncertain. I have met with the coaches and players and we have a contingency plan in place if Mike is unable to coach against Dallas.
General Manager Rick Spielman held a conference call at 10:00 a.m. Thursday morning with the Twin Cities media to address the situation. Per Spielman, Zimmer had surgery to repair a detached retina that worsened throughout the day on Wednesday, and he will not be coaching against the Dallas Cowboys Thursday night.
Spielman said he had several conversations with Zimmer, and the two determined that the head coach’s health was more important than a single game in the NFL. If not properly cared for, detached retinas can result in long-term vision damage.
Spielman: “We had some pretty significant talks, heart to heart, about what really is important in life and what isn’t.”
— Sam Ekstrom (@SamEkstrom) December 1, 2016
Zimmer had undergone two previous surgeries to repair a torn retina and did not anticipate needing a third procedure. At the time of his first surgery, he mentioned that catching the torn retina early was good because he was at risk of blindness in his right eye. A stressful month, however, that included a quick turnaround before the Vikings’ Thanksgiving game in Detroit, likely led to some unusual late nights and additional eye strain. Zimmer told the media in November he had begun reporting to the facility as early as 4 a.m. some mornings.
Special teams coach Mike Priefer will take over as interim head coach, per Spielman. Though Priefer does not have head coaching experience, he is not burdened with calling plays as offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur or defensive coordinator George Edwards might be. As a special teams coordinator, he also specializes in situational football, which may lend itself well to clock-management scenarios. Spielman said the team has the “utmost confidence” in Priefer.
Sam Ekstrom will have additional coverage from US Bank Stadium as the Vikings try to upset the Cowboys Thursday night.