Updated: 8:30 p.m.
As the subdued Bengals took the field for practice Friday morning in Paul Brown Stadium, they grappled with the news that Vikki Zimmer, the wife of defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, suddenly passed away Thursday.
“We are stunned and saddened to learn of Vikki’s passing,” said Bengals president Mike Brown in a statement Friday morning. “She was a warm and popular person in the Bengals family, and our immense respect and affection for Mike makes this especially hard. Our hearts are out to Mike and his family.”
The vivacious Vikki Zimmer became one of the unseen stars of Hard Knocks this summer as the very nice lady who made all sorts of weekly snacks for the players coached by her demanding yet popular husband. Chocolate chip cookies. Oatmeal raisin. Snickerdoodles. After she made cinnamon rolls one week, she said she also liked to make sure she made a massive fruit tray every once in awhile.
"Mike tells me, 'Those kids work so hard and so long. They really like it when you make them that stuff,' " Vikki Zimmer said last month. "They're worried about putting on weight, so I want to make it a little bit healthy but he tells me they destroy whatever it is no matter what they say."
The Zimmers were married for 27 years and have three children. Vikki Zimmer was born in Layton, Utah. She and Mike met during Mike’s coaching tenure (1981-88) at Weber State University in Ogden, Utah. Their oldest child, Adam Zimmer, is an assistant linebackers coach for the Saints.
“Mike is part of our Bengals family, and we’ll support him in every way we can,” said head coach Marvin Lewis in the same statement. “We will dearly miss Vikki. She was a friend to all of us, and a big supporter of Mike’s players. Her thoughtfulness to them in so many ways will also be greatly missed.”
In just his second season as the Bengals coordinator, Zimmer’s defense has been at the focal point of the club’s 3-1 start with a unit that is giving up just 19 points per game.
Mike Zimmer’s former owner and head coach with the Cowboys sent their thoughts via interviews with Todd Archer of the Dallas Morning News on Friday.
"Well it's very sad from the standpoint that she was a wonderful lady. I go way back with Mike, going back to Weber State,” said Dave Campo, the head coach that turned to Zimmer to be the Cowboys defensive coordinator at the turn of the century.
“I met my wife (Kay) at the same time that he met Vikki. This is a sad day because I feel the worst for the kids. They have three beautiful kids and in the coaching business, in many times, the kids are closer to their mother than they are their father because of the work schedule. That's the disappointing thing more than anything."
Owner Jerry Jones’ thoughts were also with the three children.
"We are heartbroken to hear of this loss, and our hearts go out to Mike, Adam, Corri and Marki,” Jones said. “We remember Vikki for her vibrant love of life and her loving devotion to her family."
Campo said he’s going to take his time before talking to Zimmer.
"I haven't talked to Mike. I just talked to Marvin Lewis right after it happened,” Campo said. “I've texted him. I'll get to him when it's the right time."
Funeral arrangements are incomplete.