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Mike Zimmer's Return Lifts Vikings Players

EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Mike Zimmer said his eye has improved.

His sense of humor is doing even better.

Zimmer returned to Minnesota on Sunday for a doctor's check-up after spending the previous two weeks at his ranch in Northern Kentucky to rest and recover from his eighth procedure on his right eye since the fall.

The Vikings head coach stayed connected to the team via videos of practices, phone calls and text messages. He returned in time for the Vikings to have their final four of 10 total Organized Team Activity practices this week. After celebrating his 61st birthday on the field with his team Monday, Zimmer spoke to members of the media on Tuesday.

"Alright, so Sunday afternoon the doctor met me at his office and checked the eyes," Zimmer said to open his media session. "We can get this out of the way. He said everything is good.

"The only thing that he said was that I probably should not do very many media sessions anymore," Zimmer said, delivering the punchline.

The light-hearted joke was part of an ongoing kidding with media members, but Zimmer even participated in a conference call with reporters during his absence on May 26.

Doctors discovered Zimmer had a torn retina last November. He underwent multiple procedures, except for a method that would have prevented him from air travel. Eventually, he had emergency eye surgery that cost him the opportunity to be on the sidelines against Dallas on Dec. 1 but returned to coach against Jacksonville on Dec. 11.

After delaying the procedure until after he wanted to make site visits to college all-star games and the NFL Scouting Combine, he opted to have another surgery — one that has him grounded for a bit longer — and, more importantly, take some time to heal in a more relaxed setting.

Asked if he can do everything, Zimmer said, "Moderation is the term to use. The pressure is good, the bubble is dissolving, the retina is in good shape, but really all he said was, 'Just be smart.' "

Zimmer said his 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," Zimmer said. "It is just annoying sometimes when you seeing like a glass of water over here."

Players and coaches were determined to keep their approach on-point during Zimmer's absence.

"We [knew] he [was] watching," receiver Adam Thielen said. "He was not taking a day off from watching the film. … I think the first words he said to me were something I did wrong when he was not here so we know he is watching and that is obviously why we work so hard."

Thielen and Xavier Rhodes said it was a lift for the team when Zimmer returned.

"I think everybody on this team is glad that he took time for himself and got his health down before he came back," Thielen said, "but at the same time we are glad he is back because this team is not the same without him, and obviously, he is our leader. When he is here, practice is a little different."      

Added Rhodes: "We definitely missed him while he was gone. Zim' is going to be Zim', so he's going to be on us hard. He basically wants things perfect on both sides of the ball. The energy on the field during practice is the same. We're out there practicing and competing each and every day to make each other better." 

Zimmer said he is "probably the most optimistic" he's been that this will be the final procedure.

"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 right now," Zimmer said. "So when I am standing up, and doing it all, it has been a couple of weeks, so I am hopeful."

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