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Bears lose Charles Tillman for rest of regular season with triceps injury

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Updated: December 13, 2013 6:27AM

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman wasn’t looking too far ahead. There’s a second opinion to get on what he said was a torn right
triceps, teammates to cheer on and young cornerbacks to mentor during the final seven weeks of the season.

But what about next season?

Tillman, arguably the best ­cornerback in franchise history, didn’t think about that until speaking with the Bears’ public-relations staff before meeting the media at Halas Hall. Tillman, 32, is one of many Bears with expiring ­contracts. Few are as valuable to the team as he is.

Tillman was put on the injured reserve/designated to return list. He’s eligible to return to practice in six weeks and play in eight. In other
words, he’s done for the season
unless the Bears make the playoffs.

‘‘Potentially, possibly, yeah,’’ Tillman said when asked if this could be his last season with the Bears. ‘‘Thanks for spoiling the mood.’’

Tillman hurt his triceps while guarding receiver Calvin Johnson in the second half of the Bears’
21-19 loss Sunday to the Lions.

‘‘I don’t know exactly what play,’’ Tillman said. ‘‘I just remember shoving Calvin on one play, and I felt something kind of strain, perhaps tear. I just felt a sharp pain.’’

But Tillman played on.

‘‘We knew he was hurt, but we didn’t know the extent that he was hurt,’’ coach Marc Trestman said.

When the Bears learned of the severity of the injury Monday, it became just another blow to a banged-up defense, which already had lost defensive tackles Henry Melton and Nate Collins to season-ending knee injuries. The Bears only can hope linebacker Lance Briggs (fractured shoulder) and defensive end Shea McClellin (pulled hamstring) come back soon.

‘‘It’s just one of those seasons, man,’’ Tillman said. ‘‘It happens to every team at least once a year. It just so happened the injury bug has a hold of our team for some reason.’’

Veteran cornerback Zack Bowman will replace Tillman — ‘‘I have nothing but confidence and faith in Zack,’’ Tillman said — and special-teamer Sherrick McManis and undrafted rookie C.J. Wilson will move up the depth chart.

‘‘There’s no way to replicate what Charles can do,’’ Trestman said. ‘‘[Bowman’s] got the ­ability to play, [but] he’s not going to tell you he’s Charles Tillman, and we’re not going to tell you that, either.’’

Tillman wouldn’t rule out surgery, saying he’ll get a second opinion and will do everything he can to return ‘‘as long as it’s legal and within the framework of the NFL’’

If the Bears don’t make the ­playoffs, Tillman should take comfort in knowing he’s still a turnover-producing machine who had three interceptions and three forced fumbles in eight games. If the Bears don’t want him next season, others certainly will.

There’s a debate about whether he would be a better fit at safety in the future, but Tillman said: ‘‘My athleticism is still there to play corner in this league, whether it be for the Bears or somebody else.’’

Tillman’s age and recent injuries will be considered. He said he won’t explore surgery for a nagging injury to his right knee, saying he will ‘‘just let that heal on its own.’’

‘‘I was never playing on [the knee] 100 percent,’’ Tillman said. ‘‘[I was] just doing the best I could, playing through some pain, just trying to tough it out.’’

As for now, he’ll focus on ­getting healthy and being the ‘‘biggest cheerleader and supporter on the sideline,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m still under contract,’’ ­Tillman said. ‘‘So my whole view and thought process is I’m still a Bear. So when I’m no longer a Bear, then we can talk about that. But for right now, I’m still an
employee of this organization, so no need to talk about it.’’


Twitter: @adamjahns

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