Vikki Zimmer, Zimmer’s wife of 27 years, died suddenly Oct. 8, three days before the Bengals’ fifth game of the season in Baltimore. He chose to coach in the Bengals’ last-minute 17-14 victory with two of his children and his father in the stands, and then went on to oversee his defense’s rise from No. 27 in the NFL to No. 4 that formed the foundation of the club’s AFC North title.
Reedy said the PFWA membership is expected to vote for the award in time for an announcement in the next week. Here is the list of finalists Reedy sent along:
Tom Brady, QB, Patriots: Brady missed virtually all of the 2008 season due to knee reconstruction surgery. He tore the ACL and MCL. He needed two procedures to clear out an infection in the knee late in 2008. He overcame the lack of a true running game and an elite defense to lead the Patriots to the playoffs. He ranked fifth in the NFL in passing yards and sixth in touchdown passes.
O.J. Brigance, Ravens: The Baltimore player development director has battled amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) since being diagnosed in May 2007. He started the Brigance Brigade, a foundation to fund ALS research. He turned 40 last year and continued to show up for work last season, despite the ravages of the disease.
Joe DeCamillas and Rich Behm, Cowboys: On May 2, DeCamillis, special teams coach, and Behm, a scout, were hurt when the Cowboys’ indoor practice facility collapsed. Behm was left paralyzed from the waist down. DeCamillis suffered a fractured neck. Behm, the father of three, returned to work in a couple of months, resuming the same role he had before being confined to a wheelchair. DeCamillis did not miss an OTA, wearing a neck brace and using Tom Landry’s bullhorn to get through practice. He dealt with pain throughout the season.
Cadillac Williams, RB, Buccaneers: He tore the patellar tendon in his right knee in 2007 and came back late in the 2008 season but then tore the patellar tendon in his left knee in the last game. The Bucs weren't even counting on him for 2009 and it looked like his career was over. But he played in all 16 games in 2009 and led the Bucs in rushing with 211 carries, 823 yards and four touchdowns and also caught 28 passes for 217 yards and three touchdowns.
Mike Zimmer, Bengals: Cincinnati’s defensive coordinator lost his wife on Oct. 8. Vikki Zimmer was found dead at age 50 in the family’s home. The two were married 27 years. Zimmer persevered on the job and led the Bengals to a No. 4 ranking in total defense (the highest for the team since 1983). In two seasons he has taken the Bengals defense from 27th to 12th to fourth. Zimmer spoke openly to reporters after a Week 9 game against Baltimore about how tough the previous month had been and how he was devoting more time to his daughters, Marki and Corri, who came up to visit him from Dallas. His son Adam is a linebackers coach with the Chiefs.