Comeback Player of the Year race: Eric Berry's the prohibitive favorite

The night before Super Bowl 50, the NFL will salute its best players and plays from the 2015 season with "NFL Honors," a star-studded football and entertainment event hosted by Conan O'Brien from the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. Here's the broadcasting information for Saturday night's festivities:

» 8 p.m. ET on NFL Network: Super Bowl Saturday Night, featuring all the red-carpet coverage.
» 9 p.m. ET on CBS: 5th Annual NFL Honors.

One of the awards that will be presented on Saturday: Comeback Player of the Year for the 2015 season. Who gets your vote?

A lot of players rebounded like bosses in 2015 -- see: Tyler Eifert, Sean Lee, Carson Palmer -- but only one player did so after beating what my grandfather called "The Big C." Eric Berry kicked Hodgkin's lymphoma in seven months and returned to play at an insanely good level. The guy continued to work out during his cancer treatment, so he would be in shape for the season. That alone deserves an award.

Also, Berry played an integral part in helping the 1-5 Chiefs win 11 straight games -- including their first playoff win in over two decades. If Berry doesn't win, I'm leaving. Any other star players beat cancer in the NFL this past season? Enough said. Eric Berry's story was inspiring enough when he returned from a seven-month battle with Hodgkin's lymphoma. It went to a different level when he played well enough to earn first-team All-Pro honors and his fourth appearance in the Pro Bowl. You really couldn't write a better ending to that scary tale. Carson Palmer obviously didn't finish the season like he wanted to, but for a long period of time, he was playing at an MVP level. If you're in the MVP mix -- and coming off a major injury -- you should automatically be strongly considered for this honor. ... Eric Berry. Period. His story far and away makes him the most deserving candidate for this award. Despite how gruesome NaVorro Bowman's and Carson Palmer's respective knee injuries were -- and what they accomplished upon return this season -- Berry endured a life-threatening event. The way he bounced back was spectacular. This has to be Eric Berry, right? I appreciate the revivals of many careers, including those of Carson Palmer, Brandon Marshall, even Adrian Peterson from his enforced time off last season. But Berry worked out while he received treatment for Hodgkin's lymphoma, returned to start 15 games and was named to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time in six years.

This is not merely the best comeback this year -- it's one of the great comebacks and feel-good stories ever. I considered eight players for this award, and all but one were on teams that ended up in the playoffs. Each and every one of those eight deserve to be honored. However, my choice is Derrick Johnson of the Kansas City Chiefs.

Johnson led the team in tackles and also racked up four sacks, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. When a player in his mid-30s returns from a ruptured Achilles tendon and is selected to the Pro Bowl, he has to be special. Carson Palmer was majestic ... but Eric Berry came back from his battle with cancer to become a star once again. There are more great candidates than ever for this prestigious award. Yet Eric Berry must take home the hardware after beating Hodgkin's lymphoma and stunningly returning to the field like nothing happened. Berry didn't merely play in 2015, he played.

Berry was an impact player in the secondary, getting named to the Pro Bowl while being a key figure on a defense that allowed 12.8 points per game during K.C.'s 10-game winning streak to close out the regular season. In the shutout of the Texans on Wild Card Weekend, Berry posted three tackles, a pass defensed and an interception. Beating cancer and becoming an All-Pro in one year's time? Pretty amazing, Mr. Berry. I'd split it between Eric Berry and Adrian Peterson. Berry was finding something to do while he was recovering ... and worked his way to another Pro Bowl. That says a lot about him. Peterson missed almost the entire 2014 campaign due to suspension -- and there were a lot of questions surrounding what he was going to do this season. Well, he led the league in rushing yards. Eric Berry's the answer here. To come back from cancer and lead his team the way he did is incredible. He did a magnificent job being that rally cry for his team, and he's a physical specimen in that defense. Eric. Berry. Beating cancer is more important than coming back from any injury. Eric Berry overcame the most, but Carson Palmer had the best season among those coming back from injury and/or a down 2014.

By the way, at the risk of getting up on Mt Pious, Adrian Peterson's consideration here is gross. Might be picking with my heart, but I think it has to be Eric Berry. How many players come back from cancer and immediately turn in a Pro Bowl campaign? Berry's a guy who could have lost his life to cancer, and all he wanted to do was play football. Kansas City's defense was one of the best in the league, and he was a big reason for that. He's a true leader and proved that he's still one of the best defensive players in the league, too.

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