EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. - Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer will miss what is considered a pivotal game against the Dallas Cowboys Thursday after undergoing emergency surgery on his eye.

General Manager Rick Spielman made the announcement in a conference call with reporters. Spielman said the decision was made following the surgery to repair a detached retina in Zimmer's eye, a problem that has worsened since he tore that retina during a game against the Chicago Bears Halloween night.

FAQ's about a detached retina

Spielman told reporters that Zimmer's vision began deteriorating following the team's walk-thru Wednesday, and members of the medical staff rushed him to his eye specialist.

While Zimmer recoups at home, special teams coach Mike Priefer will handle interim head coaching duties. Spielman said that decision was made so Pat Schurmur can concentrate on the team's sputtering offense, and George Edwards can keep his attention completely on the Vikings' defense and slowing down the Cowboy's high-powered offense.

"I have the utmost confidence in our coaches and players," Spielman insisted, referring to the game

The GM noted that Zimmer has never missed a game as head coach, not even following the death of his father, which speaks to his toughness and dedication to the Vikings. Spielman says keeping Zimmer focused on the long term health of his eye and the ramifications of not following doctors orders has not been easy.

"As hard headed as he is, and as tough minded as he is, we had some talks... about what is important in life and what isn't," Spielman said about Zimmer. "We have to look out for your long-term health, and we have to look out for what's best for you."

Priefer will act as interim head coach only for tonight, Spielman emphasized, and then the situation will be assessed once Zimmer's condition and ability to re-assume his duties has been considered.

Wednesday night's surgery was the third procedure Zimmer has undergone since injuring his eye. After a previous procedure the coach said his doctors told him he risked permanent blindness if he didn't have it repaired.