Much of the focus this season for the Chicago Bears this season has been on the fact that quarterback Jay Cutler is in a contract year. Little attention has been made of the fact that veteran cornerback Charles Tillman is also in the final year of his contract with the Bears.
After being a pro-bowler for the Bears in 2012, Tillman’s 2013 season has been riddled with injuries. Between a knee injury and groin injury, Tillman has been unable to regain his pro-bowl form. Tillman suffered another injury in the Bears game against the Detroit Lions on Sunday. Tillman suffered a triceps injury that might have not only ended his season, but ended his time with the Bears.
As a result of the triceps injury, Tillman has been placed on the injured reserve list with the designation of returning. As such, Tillman is not eligible to play in the Bears’ next 8 games. Meaning the only way Tillman will play another game for the Bears this season is if the team makes the playoff.
But operating under the scenario that the Bears will not make the playoffs this season, chances are that Tillman has played his last game with the Bears.
One concern of the Bears defense over recent seasons is that the unit needs to start getting younger. That is one of the main reasons why middle linebacker Brian Urlacher was not brought back by the team after the 2012 season.
Tillman turns 33 years old in February. The shelf-life of a cornerback in the NFL is not that long. That being said, Tillman has given 10 years of solid play for the Bears at the cornerback position. With this being his eleventh season in the league, it appears that all the nagging injuries are beginning to take a toll on the veteran cornerback.
Much like the time was right for the Bears to depart with Urlacher last Spring, the time may be right for the Bears and Tillman to part ways. It would not benefit the Bears to re-sign Tillman just for the satisfaction of letting the veteran cornerback live off past glory. Injuries were an underlying factor in the Bears decision to not bring back Urlacher, and that that may be the same factor with Tillman.
That is not meant as slight towards Tillman. Tillman’s career with the Bears has certainly been great. Beyond that, Tillman has been a leader for the Bears on and off the field. But life in the NFL is a bitch. There is no other way to put it. When a player–regardless of his history with a team–no longer is capable of playing at the level that a team has grown accustom to, the team needs to move on from that player.
If Tillman has played his last game with the Bears, the veteran cornerback will have finished his time with the Bears with a total of 849 tackles, 42 forced fumbles, and 36 interceptions.