Charles Tillman told reporters last week that he was angry and frustrated after suffering a season-ending torn right triceps for the second straight year. But the Chicago Bears cornerback also put his injury in perspective, comparing his situation to two individuals who are battling cancer.
“I’m frustrated from the standpoint of working really hard coming off of last year’s injury and having the same injury,” said Tillman, who hurt his arm Sept. 14 in a win over the San Francisco 49ers. “There was a lot of frustration. But at the end of the day, it’s so small. This is minute.
“I have a friend. He’s like 29. He’s a young guy and he’s got cancer. This is minute. I look at Devon Still, the defensive lineman from Cincinnati and what he’s going through with his daughter (who has cancer). So my small injury puts everything in perspective.”
Tillman got hurt on a seemingly innocent play when he pushed 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree while trying to shed a block. The two-time Pro Bowler bent over and grabbed his arm before walking to the sideline and taking a knee while being examined by medical personnel.
It was the worst possible case of déjà vu for Tillman, who sat out the last seven games in 2013 after suffering the same injury in a loss to the Detroit Lions. After seeing tears stream down Tillman’s face on the bench, hundreds of fans took to social media to offer him their best wishes.
“I appreciate the kind words of encouragement and support from all the Bears fans who have reached out to me,” Tillman said in a statement released by the team.
“I know this feeling way too well, but this isn’t the end of the road for me. As I rehab my injury, my role will transition to helping coach and support my teammates. I will be at Halas Hall and do everything I can to help our team reach its goals.”
Tillman has played all 12 of his NFL seasons with the Bears. Since arriving as a second-round draft pick from Louisiana Lafayette in 2003, he has set franchise records for most defensive touchdowns (9), interception return touchdowns (8) and interception return yards (675). In addition, his 36 interceptions are the most by a Bears cornerback and third most overall in team history behind safeties Gary Fencik (38) and Richie Petitbon (37).
“On a personal level, I’m really disappointed for Charles and what’s come about here,” coach Marc Trestman said Sept. 15 on his radio show on WBBM 780 AM and 105.9 FM in Chicago.
“He was on his way to a Pro Bowl season. The first two weeks, he played very, very well. He was very physical. He was around the ball. He was in piles. He was creating a sense of urgency for our football team each and every play. He really had worked so hard this offseason to come back and get himself ready to go.
“We’ll feel it on our football team, no doubt. The next guy’s got to step up and we’ve got to play. But he’s such an integral part of our football team in the locker room and on the field.”
Since entering the NFL, Tillman is the only player with at least 30 interceptions and 30 forced fumbles. During the time he also ranks second in forced fumbles, tied for fifth in interceptions and interception return yards, sixth in passes defensed and tied for second in interception return TDs.