Another award. But another tough week.
That's the way it's been going for Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer ever since he lost his wife Vikki when she suddenly died one Thursday night during last season.
"Good days and bad days," Zimmer said. "You always want to win. And it's an honor. But it's been a tough week."
Facing a ballot stuffed with worthy names, the Pro Football Writers of America voted Zimmer the George S. Halas Award given annually to the individual in the NFL who overcame the most adversity to succeed last season.
Zimmer, a native of Peoria, Ill., is thrilled to have his name on a trophy with Halas, the former Bears owner and coach. But he admitted he would have given his vote elsewhere. To Cowboys scout Rich Behm and special teams coach Joe DeCamillas, injured in the collapse of Dallas' indoor facility. Behm, a father of three, is in a wheelchair paralyzed from the waist down.
Zimmer, who coached in Dallas for 13 seasons, knows Behm and has seen him during the offseason.
"He seemed to be in good spirits," Zimmer said. "That's pretty tragic. To not ever walk again."
Also on the ballot was O.J. Brigance, the Ravens player development director battling Lou Gehrig's Disease for the past three years, as well as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and Buccaneers running back Cadillac Williams. Brady missed virtually all of the 2008 season with a torn ACL and MCL in his knee and led the Pats back to the playoffs this past season. Williams' career was thought to be over after he tore the patellar tendon in both knees, but he played every game in 2009 and led the Bucs in rushing.
"It's always good to win," Zimmer said. "I don't know if it's something you want to win."
Zimmer was on the field three days after his wife's Oct. 8 death and called the Bengals' 17-14 win in Baltimore during which his defense held the dangerous Ravens offense to one touchdown. The Bengals went on to finish fourth in the NFL defensive rankings two years after finishing No. 27 and they are poised for more with every starter back.
But it has been a tough week.
Zimmer turned 53 this past Saturday, but didn't acknowledge his birthday.
"I don't have them anymore," he said.
Vikki went all out for birthdays and they had a surprise party for her 50th last year. She would have turned 51 Wednesday and Zimmer is choosing to leave after practice Tuesday to spend it with his two daughters in Austin, Tex.
"Birthdays. Christmas. The kids' birthdays. They're all tough," Zimmer said.
He'll be back to work the Bengals mandatory minicamp next week and then before he heads back to Texas to spend the rest of the summer vacation with his girls he'll host his coaching clinic at Paul Brown Stadium on Monday, June 21 from 6-9:30 p.m., for high school, college and junior high coaches.
Zimmer's agenda includes defensive philosophy, chalkboard talks, film study review and a question and answer session for $50 with all proceeds ticketed to The First Step Home, a charity supported by the NFL at firststephome.org.
"It's for women in recovery and helps their children stay with them," Zimmer said. "Whether it's drugs, alcohol, or whatever it is, it helps them let them be with their children. It helps the moms, it helps the kids, hopefully we're going to help football with the clinic, so it's a three-way deal."