Tillman looks ahead; future with Bears uncertain
BY ADAM L. JAHNS | Staff reporter December 30, 2013 2:10PM
Injured Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman is bundled up during team warmups Sunday beforea game against the Green Bay Packers. | AP Photo
Updated: December 30, 2013 2:19PM
Charles Tillman can’t imagine what it would be like not to wear the Bears’ blue and orange, to not call Soldier Field his home, to not be part of the Chicago sports landscape.
But Tillman, the best cornerback in team history, knows it could be his new reality — that his stellar, Peanut-punching run with the Bears, just like Brian Urlacher’s last year, could be approaching its end. He needs a new deal like many other Bears, and there’s no guaranteeing one can be reached.
Tillman sounded like a player giving his thankful goodbyes at times on Monday, and his contract situation bears watching.
“Chicago has been great — Chicago is great,” Tillman said as Bears players cleaned out their lockers at Halas Hall. “They’ve got great owners, great fans, great teammates. This is a great team; it’s a great organization. Eleven years here is truly an honor. I’m truly blessed with the McCaskey family for what they’ve done, for them taking a chance on a little scrawny kid out of Lafayette, Louisiana. So yeah man, I’m truly blessed and happy they took a chance drafting a little kid out of Louisiana.”
But even though Tillman said there haven’t been any new contract talks with the Bears, he made it seem like there still was some mutual interest and also indicated that he wouldn’t object to being part of a rebuilding on defense.
“I think they do (want me to return), I think they will (give me an indication),” Tillman said. “I like it here. Like I said, a great town, great friends, great city, great organization.”
Making something work, though, could prove to be challenging. Tillman was paid $7.95 million in 2013, and the Bears are unlikely to come close to that with a defense to remake and other Pro Bowlers such as defensive tackle Henry Melton and cornerback Tim Jennings to consider.
Tillman turns 33 in February and is coming off a triceps injury that involves “ a couple weeks, couple months or so” of rehab work, he said. He also dealt with a nagging knee injury when he was active.
That said, it still would be difficult replacing a player of Tillman’s caliber – even at his age. He would bring stability to a defense going through more changes. In eight games this season, Tillman had three interceptions and three forced fumbles.
Tillman ranks third in team history with 36 interceptions and is first with nine defensive return touchdowns. Since 2003, his rookie season, he ranks second in the NFL with 42 forced fumbles and fifth with 133 pass breakups.
Tillman definitely isn’t done playing, either. He’s not even considering retirement. He said he’s hoping “for something positive” to happen in the coming days, weeks or months.
“I have some options,” Tillman said. “I have some thoughts. I have some decisions that I have to make that’s what’s best for myself and my family and my football career.”
Tillman said he’s OK dealing with this much uncertainty for the first time in his career.
“I think it’s the first time in my life that I’ve had to make decisions like this,” Tillman said. “But I don’t know. I’m just kind of waiting to see how it plays out. I’m not stressing. I’m not worried about it.”
As far as his injury-plagued 2013 season, Tillman didn’t hide his disappointment.
“(It’s) frustrating from the standpoint of not making the playoffs, frustrating for me not being able to help my teammates out when I felt like they needed me,” Tillman said. “Just frustration — a lot of frustration this year for me not being out there with my teammates.”