EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. —Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman said he was impressed by the way Vikings coaches and players approached the start of Organized Team Activity practices without Head Coach Mike Zimmer and is encouraged by the progress Teddy Bridgewater has made in rehabbing his significant knee injury.
Spielman spoke to members of the media as the Vikings were beginning their second of 10 organized team activity practices that are scheduled into June.
Currently unable to fly because of a sensitivity to air pressure, Zimmer loaded up for a 12-hour ride to his ranch in Northern Kentucky where he will try to rest and recover. He'll also be able to review practice film during this time.
"I know [Zimmer is] going to be out for a couple of weeks and evaluate where he's at and when he can get back on the field," Spielman said. "I know there's no question that he's still in charge of this football team and what's going on between the white lines."
Spielman said Zimmer was cleared by doctors to watch video of practices without having an adverse effect on the recovery.
"The biggest thing is him not being out here on the practice field yelling and screaming, putting in the time and energy that he does to this job, to just get away and let it heal and recover," Spielman said.
Doctors discovered that Zimmer had suffered a detached retina last November. He underwent multiple types of procedures and missed a Dec. 1 game against Dallas because of emergency surgery.
Special Teams Coordinator Mike Priefer served as head coach of that game, working with Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur and Defensive Coordinator George Edwards. The three coordinators are handling practices, and Zimmer shifted some additional roles to defensive line coach Andre Patterson and linebackers coach Adam Zimmer.
Spielman said Zimmer waited until now for this procedure so he could travel to college all-star games, the combine and pro days via planes, as well as participate in key offseason meetings where the coaches and personnel department discussed roster building.
"That's pretty tolling for anybody to go through that many surgeries, especially in your eye," Spielman said. "I know he's complying with everything the doctors want him to do, and I know everybody is very encouraged that this will helpfully resolve the issue."
Spielman said Zimmer is optimistic, but it was tough to convince the coach to give himself time in a more relaxed setting to recover.
"I will just say Coach Zimmer is very hard-headed on a lot of things and sometimes, just like his players, you've got to make sure that your health comes first," Spielman said. "I know everybody, hopefully this surgery, which we're very optimistic about, will be the surgery that corrects the detached retina and vision problems he does have."
Bridgewater suffered a dislocated knee and torn ACL in a practice on Aug. 30. The injuries cost him all of his third pro season, and he is continuing to rehab. He has advanced in his rehab to making dropbacks and throwing.
The 2014 first-round pick was at a doctor's appointment on Wednesday.
"Part of the rehab process is that he is able to start dropping back and throwing the ball. He is not cleared for practice," Spielman said. "I want to make that perfectly clear, but he is working extremely hard on his rehab, and we'll continue to monitor his progress as he goes."
The Vikings have not placed a timeline on Bridgewater's recovery and will just continue to evaluate progress day-by-day.
"Teddy is working extremely hard, trying to get back from such a devastating injury," Spielman said. "We're all focused, and Teddy's focused on rehabbing and getting ready as quickly as he can.
"Teddy is such a great kid. I know how everybody feels about Teddy, including our Head Coach, our Ownership, this entire organization, just hoping that he'll eventually be able to come back on the field," Spielman said. "That's still the unknown. I know everybody from [Director of Sports Medicine/Head Certified Athletic Trainer] Eric Sugarman to the doctors are doing everything they can to work with Teddy, and Teddy is working — you almost have to hold Teddy back from doing too much because he's so diligent in what he's trying to get accomplished."