Few Chicago Bears have been as reliable as Charles Tillman. And in recent years, none have been more respected.
But with new decision makers at Halas Hall and Tillman, now 34 years old, coming off two injury-shortened seasons and at the end of his contract, the bittersweet divorce wasn’t difficult to forecast. This week, Tillman signed a one-year deal with the Carolina Panthers and closed the book on his 12-year career in Chicago.
But that doesn’t mean Bears fans should stop cheering for Peanut. The Bears weren’t going to pay him the $3 million he’s getting now, and he’s said all along he planned on playing 2015. Now, he’s joining a team that not only has some familiar faces in head coach Ron Rivera and tight end Greg Olsen, but has also made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons.
Still, it won’t be easy seeing Peanut in a Panthers uniform, not after he’s played every one of his 156 NFL games for the Bears. His mix of performance (42 forced fumbles, 9 defensive TDs) and professionalism made him a favorite of fans, teammates, local reporters and even opponents:
Tillman introduced himself on Friday to the Carolina media, a group he’ll win over, too. The talent and intelligence will help, but it was always his uncommon mix of candor and humor that the Chicago media most appreciated.
Assuming he’s healthy, he should have no problem fitting in on the field, either. He said he’s not aiming for a starting role, but it’s easy to picture him lining up across from the NFC South’s tallest wide receivers, guys like Mike Evans and Julio Jones.
Of course, he needs to prove he’s up to the task, and let’s hope he is. Tillman was a consummate pro in Chicago, and he really had nothing left to prove there. Other than kicker Robbie Gould, he was the last player remaining from the Bears’ 2006 team that went all the way to the Super Bowl.
If Carolina makes the playoffs and doesn’t cross paths with the Bears, why not cheer for a guy like Tillman to win a championship?
I know I will be.