Kansas City safety Eric Berry, who rebounded from a diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in late 2014 to an All-NFL season in 2015, was selected as the 2015 NFL Comeback Player of the Year, chosen in voting conducted by the Professional Football Writers of America (PFWA).
Washington quarterback Kirk Cousins, who set several club records on the way to the NFC East title, and Carolina cornerback Josh Norman, who earned PFWA All-NFL honors, tied for 2015 NFL Most Improved Player of the Year honors.
Berry was involved in a collision with a Oakland player in a Nov. 20, 2014 game and noticed chest pain in the aftermath. Four days later, a cancerous mass was found inside his chest, and Berry was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. He reported to the 2015 Chiefs training camp cancer free and returned to the Kansas City starting lineup in Week 2. Berry played in all 16 games (15 starts), was third on the team in tackles with 61 (55 solo) and had a pair of interceptions. He was voted to the 2015 PFWA All-NFL and All-AFC teams.
Berry is the second member of the Chiefs to receive Comeback Player of the Year honors, joining RB Marcus Allen (1993).
For the first time since the PFWA instituted the Most Improved Player of the Year award in 2000, there was a tie for the honor.
Cousins was not the Week 1 starter in 2014, but moved into the starting role for the next five games, throwing for 1,710 yards, 10 touchdowns and nine interceptions before Washington decided to make a change at quarterback. He was made the 2015 starter late in training camp, and he set club records in passing attempts (543), completions (379), passing yards (4,166) and 300-yard passing games (seven) to go with 29 passing touchdowns. He ranked first in the NFL in completion percentage (69.8%) and was third in the NFL in rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (five). He was selected as the NFC Offensive Player of the Month for December, and he was the NFC Offensive Player of the Week in Weeks 7 and 10.
Cousins is the first member of the Redskins to receive the Most Improved Player of the Year.
In 2014, Norman had two interceptions, 11 passes defensed, one forced fumble and 38 total tackles in 14 games (10 starts). This season, Norman recorded a team-high four interceptions, returning two for touchdowns, to go with 55 total tackles, 16 passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries in 16 starts on the way to PFWA All-NFL and All-NFC honors. His two interception-return TDs were tied for the most in the NFL, and he was the first cornerback with two interception TDs in the first four games of a season since Charles Woodson in 2008. He was selected as the NFC Defensive Player of the Month for September and the NFC Defensive Player of the Week for Week 4.
Norman is the second member of the Panthers to receive Most Improved Player of the Year honors, joining running back DeAngelo Williams (2008).
PFWA COMEBACK PLAYER OF THE YEAR: 1992 – QB Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia Eagles; 1993 – RB Marcus Allen, Kansas City Chiefs; 1994 – QB Dan Marino, Miami Dolphins; 1995 – QB Jim Harbaugh, Indianapolis Colts; 1996 – RB Jerome Bettis, Pittsburgh Steelers; 1997 – WR Robert Brooks, Green Bay Packers; 1998 – QB Doug Flutie, Buffalo Bills; 1999 – DT Bryant Young, San Francisco 49ers; 2000 – DE Joe Johnson, New Orleans Saints; 2001 – RB Garrison Hearst, San Francisco 49ers; 2002 – QB Tommy Maddox, Pittsburgh Steelers; 2003 – QB Jon Kitna, Cincinnati Bengals; 2004 – RB Willis McGahee, Buffalo Bills; 2005 – WR Steve Smith, Carolina Panthers; 2006 – QB Chad Pennington, New York Jets; 2007 – WR Randy Moss, New England Patriots; 2008 – QB Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins; 2009 – QB Tom Brady, New England Patriots; 2010 – QB Michael Vick, Philadelphia Eagles; 2011 – QB Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions; 2012 – RB Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings; 2013 – QB Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers; 2014 – TE Rob Gronkowski, New England Patriots; 2015 – S Eric Berry, Kansas City Chiefs.
PFWA MOST IMPROVED PLAYER OF THE YEAR: 2000 – QB Jeff Garcia, San Francisco 49ers; 2001 – QB Kordell Stewart, Pittsburgh Steelers; 2002 – QB Chad Pennington, New York Jets; 2003 – QB Jon Kitna, Cincinnati Bengals; 2004 – QB Drew Brees, San Diego Chargers; 2005 – DE Osi Umenyiora, New York Giants; 2006 – RB Frank Gore, San Francisco 49ers; 2007 – QB Derek Anderson, Cleveland Browns; 2008 – RB DeAngelo Williams, Carolina Panthers; 2009 – WR Miles Austin, Dallas Cowboys; 2010 – RB Arian Foster, Houston Texans; 2011 – WR Victor Cruz, New York Giants; 2012 – WR Dez Bryant, Dallas Cowboys; 2013 – WR Alshon Jeffery, Chicago Bears; 2014 – RB Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh Steelers; 2015 – (tie) QB Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins and CB Josh Norman, Carolina Panthers.