Chicago Sun-Times

Bears bracing for training camp without top corner Tillman

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Charles Tillman will be placed on the physically unable to perform list Friday at training camp when he fails his physical.

That makes the focus for the Bears during three weeks at Olivet Nazarene University in Bourbonnais, Ill., finding a contingency plan in the event Tillman has not recovered from back surgery in time for the Sept. 13 season opener at Green Bay.

Tillman underwent surgery performed by Dr. Robert Watkins two weeks ago in Los Angeles. He was given a timetable of six to 12 weeks for a return to the field. Six weeks would put Tillman back on the field right around the final preseason game Sept. 3 vs. Cleveland, but teams are so hesitant to use starters in those games that it might be surprising to see him on the field then. The outside range for a return would mean Tillman would miss at least the first three regular-season games. He'll have to be removed from the PUP list before the Sept. 5 roster cutdown to 53 or else he would wind up missing a minimum of six weeks of the regular season. The Bears don't anticipate that happening, but then again they didn't think he'd be hobbled with a back issue after undergoing reconstructive shoulder surgery on Jan. 14.

In fact, it's the third ailment Tillman has dealt with since playing the bulk of last season with injuries to both shoulders. He was cleared for a return from shoulder surgery in June but then was forced to deal with a hyperextended knee. This turns the team's hope that Nathan Vasher returns to form at right cornerback into a need. Zack Bowman got plenty of reps at left corner with Tillman sidelined during the spring. He performed well but that was without pads on. The fifth-round pick from 2008 appeared in one game last season before a torn biceps muscle ended his season.

Corey Graham's brief foray into the mix at free safety will end and he is expected to be back at cornerback. Trumaine McBride and rookie fourth-round pick D.J. Moore are on the depth chart. No one has the experience of Tillman, and right now it's impossible to say anyone has the upside of Tillman when he's healthy. Now you have to wonder if the Bears knew issues were lurking when they brought in veterans Ken Lucas and Rod Hood for free-agent visits this offseason. Neither player was offered a contract. Either one would look pretty good as insurance right now.

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12 Comments

This is a disaster.... Peanut was supposed to be the main guy at corner. With him out now and Vasher an unknown at this point we are in a fix here. Wow.. we needed everyone to be healthy. The article also says that Peanut was fighting a knee problem too in the OTA's.. Two recent shoulder surgeries, bad knee and now back surgery..??? Does not look good for Peanut people. This team has 11-5 all over it if people stay healthy. Not even one drill into training camp and one of our biggest defensive players is out. Wow.. all I can say wow.

Rather have him take care of this now than lose him during the regular season. Biggs-y, I assume you guys were caught off guard by this?

Zack Bowman!!!!!!! YEA!!!!!finally!!!

I bet Tillman is going to be the next Vasher next off season.That means on the hot seat, because Zack Bowman is the next big thing since Vasher 1st few seasons.Now we need T.Harris out so Gilbert can make up for the bears mistake in taking Harris in the 1st round while someone better and healthier in Dockett was in the 2nd.D.Manning is already hurt so that means who ever takes is place at nickel will be better.LAST BUT NOT LEAST, we need Pisa to quit so Williams can finally be the next Lance Briggs.

Let's roll with Bowman at corner; go easy on Peanut, be patient with this recovery its a long season. Continue with the move of Corey Graham to safety.

More concerning than this injury alone, is the pattern of injuries we're seeing for Tillman - shoulder, knee, back.

Just the same, I'm still bullish on this year.

peanut has been one of the best man cover corners in the league since his phenomenal rookie season. his capabilities to jam off the line and still recover in space have masked the big problems at safety in pass coverage for several seasons. this is a big blow to the defense, and is just as jarring to the safeties as it is to the CB depth chart. lets hope peanut gets back quickly

Why do they wait till camp is going to start to do the surgery. I mean come on he could have had it at any point during the offseason and been healthy now. I find it hard to belive they just figured it out now.

How is it possible with a 7 month off season that this surgery happened just 2 weeks ago? And now he's not ready to go?

I agree that Zack Bowman really showed something in his brief time on the field last year before getting injured. He had the Mike Brown knack for being at the right place at the right time to make something happen. He could end up a real playmaker for the Bears.

I've only been a Bear fab since 1975 but can trully say I've never looked more forward to a season. Thanks Brad for keeping us on top of everything!

Here I'm optimistic. Injuries to both Tillman and Vasher the last two years have given Trumaine McBride and Corey Graham quality starting experience. We still have Vash, and we're all excited at what Zack Bowman might be able to do. No, that doesn't give us another Tillman, and his services will be missed, but still, I'd say we're pretty deep at CB.

Yeah, why don't they have surgery earlier in the off-season? I don't see how this benefits anybody involved, except maybe the Packers.

I would have to say that the Corey Graham experiment is over at safety. Legs, back, and shoulder issues are not a good thing for an NFL CB to have going on. Bowman hasn't been healthy since high school, and Vasher is still an unknown as far as whether he can revert to his "pre-big money" form. So we basically have Graham, Moore, McBride, and Manning as the CBs we can conceivably count on. If Vasher plays like his 2005-2006 self, we will have one side settled, but we need someone to step up on the other side. Forget everything else, Tillman's knees scare me more than anything. He was not very quick to begin with, and if he is having trouble with his legs, that pushes us to play a lot more Cover 2 and Cover 3, which leaves us vulnerable to the slants, screens, and seam routes.

We also have to consider what happens when you have back surgery, no matter how minor. You are basically instructed to sit still for the recovery period, which means no lifting, no running, no preparing for an NFL season. It took Urlacher 10 games last year to get back up to speed, and he was there for all of training camp. This is not a good thing, and could end up being a very bad thing.

I love Peanut's effort and heart, but this will definitely turn our CB position into a liability if he tries to play early this season. I say PUP list for the start of the year, and use the roster spot to get a young guy some experience on special teams, and see what he can do. Peanut will have a chance to come back by November, and we will have him for the stretch run, but no sense in rushing him back onto the field.

Our secondary was one of the deepest positions on the roster, but was also the most unsettled. Tillman was the only rock-solid spot in that group, and now he's uncertain. Rod Marinelli had better be able to walk on water, or we are in for a long season....No pass rush, no pass coverage, no chance.

Not good news on Peanut, but of all the positions the corner back position seemed to have the most depth.

I believe it is imperative that the Bears start fast with wins on their schedule because I believe there will be a disconnect for the first half of the year with Cutler and the receivers. Therefore the D really needs to be carrying the team until the offense starts to hit on all cylinders.

I agree with not rushing Tillman, maybe bring him back in game 4 or so but not any later unless he simply is unable to go. With the backups of Moore, McBride, Bowman and Graham (if needed) there is enough decent quality relief to get by and Joe you are right only if the pass rush has some pop to it, otherwise watch out it may be a slow start to the season.

Despite the injury I am still in favor of keeping Graham as a free safety candidate. To me that free safety position still seems the weak link despite the injury to Tillman. Graham needs the reps at free safety just in case.

Hey, that's the way it goes. This is the NFL; injuries happen, lots of them. Good teams win regardless. As a little kid I remember the Baltimore Colts winning the Championship with Earl Morrall at quarterback because Johnny Unitas was injured. NO EXCUSES, JUST WIN!

Dahli,
Graham cannot now play safety, the cornerback position is much more important. I suppose if Bowman or someone else really steps up Graham could be worked in at FS, but right now he's badly needed at corner. Free safety is the least important position on defense. A weakness there will not hurt anywhere near as much as one at corner.

Oh god the Bowman boys are out in force. Did it occure to the Bowman fan club that the guy is a walking injury issure? Do you even know about this guy in college, tons of talent couldn't stay healthy. Lasted how many snaps in the nfl before going down?

Well it looks like Tillman is breaking down, which tends to happen with physical players like him sooner rather than later. I am sure he will come back and play this year but just like last year he will not be as effective for the season.

Vasher and Graham do not wow me at the corners, combine that with the Safety's and the Bears secondary is a mess. So lets see in a season where the Bears have to play against: Boldin, Breaston, Fitzgerald, Ward and Holmes, Driver and Jennings x2, Johnson and Pettigrew x2, Houshmandzadeh oh and Mike Hass, yes thee Mike Hass(His training camp followers are the same ones running around saying Hanie needs a shot to start over Cutler), Crabtree (I think he is over rated myself), Ochocinco, and Berrian. Pretty solid bunch of guys and before anyone makes fun of the Vikings they actually did manage to light up the Bears secondary last year.

A lot of the teams the Bears face are not that good, but a lot of them can pass the ball. I excpect to see the defense continue it's decline. I don't see much talent in the depth the Bears have of defense, come to think of it I don't much depth except at the nickle, we got plenty of guys to play the nickle. My guys is the Bears continue to try and blitz like they did last year, to try and cover up for the secondary and D-line.

The Good.
Jay Cutler
Matt Forte
Special Teams
Toub
The TE position

The Question Marks
The O-Line
Hester Recieving/returns

The Bad
Everything not listed above

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This page contains a single entry by Brad Biggs published on July 27, 2009 10:23 PM.

4 days to Camp: It's wide open when it comes to Bears' receivers was the previous entry in this blog.

3 days to Camp: Should the Bears consider Michael Vick? is the next entry in this blog.

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