Charles Tillman is the definition of a Chicago Bear. The 32-year-old cornerback has battled through injuries for a long time and still plays pretty damn well.
On Sunday, the ball-punching Tillman suffered a torn right triceps injury.
Tillman was placed on the short-term injured reserve with the designation to return, which means he will miss eight weeks with eligibility to practice in six weeks.
The injury came in the second half, but he stayed in the game battling throughout with the best receiver in the NFL, Calvin Johnson.
Although, Tillman allowed the game-winning touchdown, he still turned in a solid performance against Johnson, allowing only six receptions for 83 yards on 17 targets.
"I'm definitely sad," Tillman said to the media on Monday. "This team has a lot of potential. The fact that I'm no longer a part of that to help this team further succeed, that's the part that hurts. My role right now is to be the biggest cheerleader and supporter on the sideline."
The 11-year veteran has started 136 games over the last nine seasons, only missing seven starts. He missed the Week Six Thursday Night Football matchup against the New York Giants with a knee injury.
Tillman battled through a knee and groin injury for most of the season until suffering a wrist and triceps injury in Sunday's 21-19 loss to the Lions. He stays on the field through tons of rough injuries something that Bears fans love about Peanut.
If the Bears (5-4) can a punch a ticket to the playoffs surely Tillman, who is in his last year of his contract will be out there. Although, he isn't eligbible to return until the divisional round if he does return at all.
But for now Zackary Bowman will take over as the starter opposite Tim Jennings. Bowman started in Tillman's place back in Week 10, racking up four tackles and a first-quarter interception of Eli Manning.
The 6'1" Nebraska product is one of four Bears cornerbacks that will be free agents at season's end (Tillman, Jennings and Hayden). At age 28, this is a big chance for Bowman to earn one last solid contract in the NFL.
He started the 2009 season opposite Tillman and benefited greatly, reeling in a career-high six interceptions.
He's been relegated to special teams mostly since re-joining the Bears late last season. With Kelvin Hayden lost for the season in training camp, Bowman moved up the depth chart behind the starters.
Bowman has the size to cover most wide receivers, but he has lacked the physicality part of the cornerback position something Tillman has excelled.
It will be interesting to see how Bowman plays with Jennings opposite him. These next seven weeks should decide his fate with the Bears next season.
Tillman joins defensive tackles Henry Melton (torn ACL) and Nate Collins (torn ACL) and linebacker D.J. Williams (torn pectoral muscle) as Bears defenders who have been placed on injured reserve.
That's not even mentioning Jay Cutler's recent groin and now ankle injury, Lance Briggs' fractured shoulder injury and Hayden's and Turk McBride's injuries in training camp.
"It's just one of those seasons," Tillman said to the media on Monday. "It's the National Football League. It just so happened the injury bug has a hold of our team for some reason."
It's yet another terrible break for a Bears defense that performed rather well against one of the best offenses in the league in Detroit.
I truly believe Tillman will be brought back this off-season, but if it's his last year with the Bears he finishes with some impressive numbers.
“Potentially, possibly, yeah,” Tillman said to a question about the possibility of being in a didn't uniform next season. “But I guess I hadn’t really thought about it until you just said it. So, thanks, for spoiling the mood.”
Tillman is the Bears all-timer leader in defensive touchdowns (9), interception return touchdowns (8) and interception return yards (675). He ranks third in Bears history in interceptions (36) behind only Richie Petitbon and Gary Fencik.
The guy has a knack at the big play, he has 42 forced fumbles since entering the league in 2002, including three this season.
The Bears will have some tough decisions to make this off-season especially with the some key defenders, but for now its time to see what some of the depth players have.
Zackary Bowman it's your time to shine. Or fail.
Hopefully you can shine because quite frankly the Bears need you now more than ever with Tillman out.
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