Ryan Mayer

Minnesota Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer will miss Thursday night’s game against the Dallas Cowboys after undergoing emergency eye surgery on Wednesday night. Vikings general manager Rick Spielman announced that special teams coordinator Mike Priefer will handle the coaching duties for Thursday’s game.

Priefer is in his sixth season with the Vikings as special teams coordinator and is a 15-year veteran of the NFL coaching ranks. This will be his first game serving in the head coach capacity.

The eye surgery was Zimmer’s third in the span of a month as the coach had surgery to repair a torn retina in early November. As for a timetable on when Zimmer could possibly return to his head coaching duties, Spielman said that the team is taking it “one day at a time.”

It’s the first game he’s ever missed a game as a coach. Zimmer did not miss any games after his wife died unexpectedly during the 2009 season. He was then the defensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals.

It’s not known how much time Zimmer will miss, as team officials said they will re-evaluate the situation Friday morning.

“Coach Zimmer has never missed a game and I know how hard this is on him,” Spielman said. “If you go back, even when he had to go through the tragedy of his wife passing away he did coach. So this is the first time he’s ever going to miss a game and I can’t express how hard it is on coach not to be able to coach tonight.”

Spielman said Zimmer will not be at U.S. Bank Stadium Thursday night as he’s been told to watch the game at home.

The reason special teams coach Mike Priefer will be taking over the head coaching duties tonight is to allow both Pat Shurmur to concentrate of his duties as offensive coordinator and George Edwards doing the same on the defensive side, although we all know Zimmer is the man in charge of that defense.

And no by league rules, Mike Zimmer is not allowed to pick up the phone and call one of his assistants on the bench to chime in on his opinion.

The bigger issue of course is Zimmer’s future vision in that right eye, something thousands of people struggle with on a daily basis. This was a big night for Zimmer, who spent 13 years in the Dallas organization as a coach, but had never faced them as a head coach.

It’s an ironic twist to have the head coach out after the Vikings have been marred by injuries for much of the season. The Vikings have been without at least four offensive linemen all season. Phil Loadholt retired after tearing an Achilles’ tendon, John Sullivan was released after a series of back surgeries and Matt Kalil was placed on injured reserve after a hip injury.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a devastating leg injury during a non-contact drill and hasn’t seen the field all season. It’s not known if he’ll be back next year. Running back Adrian Peterson has been out since Week 2 after tearing the meniscus in his knee. He is still at least a few weeks away from a potential return.

Sharrif Floyd has been out much of the season with a knee injury, and several other players have missed time with other injuries. Center Joe Berger won’t play Thursday after suffering a concussion against the Lions on Thanksgiving, and punt returner Marcus Sherels is also out with a knee injury.

Thursday night’s game against the Cowboys (10-1) is set for kick-off at 7:25 on NBC from U.S. Bank Stadium.

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