He's had to wait nine long productive seasons but Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman is finally headed to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. After being snubbed his entire career, Tillman said he's happy to finally be recognized.
"I'm more thankful that my peers and the coaches … voted me in," Tillman said. "I don't think it's really about recognition but I do recognize that they think that I'm a good player. So that means a lot. It makes me feel good."
Tillman has always been one of the most consistent corners in the NFC. He's one of the best in the league at creating turnovers, be it through interceptions or forced fumbles. Since entering the NFL in 2003, Tillman leads all defensive backs with 27 forced fumbles and his 29 interceptions is tied for ninth in the NFL overall during that time.
He ranks third on the team this year with a career-high 107 tackles. He also leads the team in pass break ups (11) and is tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (3) and fumble recoveries (2) while adding two interceptions and an interception return touchdown.
"I definitely think it's something you should savor," he said. "With injuries, life, just seize the moment. I think in my short time on this Earth, what I've been able to learn is just savor the moment. Enjoy it. Live it up while you can." Tillman said he didn't worry too much about not being selected in the past and felt now was the right time for it to happen. "I guess it just wasn't my time," he said. "There were obviously other corners that were doing bigger and better things than me in years past. That's why I wasn't able to go I suppose. But everything happens for a reason. They called me this year. I got in. So I'm grateful for the honor."
Graham finally recognized
Internally, Corey Graham has always received the recognition from his teammates and coaches for his play on special team. He has shown during his career, and especially this season, how valuable he is as a member of the team's coverage units.
Yet it appears the rest of the league has finally started to take notice as well. It was announced yesterday that Graham was one of five Bears players to make the Pro Bowl this year.
"It's very exciting, to be honest with you," said Graham. "It's something that I've been striving for the last couple years. It's good to finally make it and get a chance to play in it. It's like a dream come true for me."
Graham currently leads all Chicago players in special teams tackles (20) and was tabbed by coordinator Dave Toub as the captain of third phase this season.
"Toub, he's a smart guy. He puts you in position to do well," Graham said. "Obviously, you need players to go out there and do their jobs, but he's good at drawing up schemes and getting guys in the right position and just getting guys to play hard for him. He puts you in position, and guys just go out there and try to make plays."
Graham is a free agent after this season and would like to play with an organization that will offer him regular playing time on defense. He intercepted three passes in his three starts this year, filling in for the injured D.J. Moore at nickelback. Obviously, if the Bears choose not to re-sign him next year, Graham will have no problem finding employment elsewhere in the league.
Williams wants to return
Bears wide receiver Roy Williams said today he'd like to return to Chicago next season, assuming the team wants him back.
"I feel like I made plays when the opportunity came," said Williams. "Of course everybody's going to bring up the negatives, which is fine. But for the most part I made enough plays. I'll be happy to sign, but if not, I'll continue on elsewhere."
Williams was signed this past offseason to be the team's big-play, No. 1 wideout. Yet he has struggled with drops and inconsistency for most of the year. Through 15 games, he's caught just 33 passes for 447 yards and 1 TD. That type of production most likely won't earn him a new contract next season, at least not in Chicago.
McCown not auditioning for next year
QB Josh McCown had a strong showing last week in his first start for the Bears. He completed 19 of 28 passes for 242 yards and a touchdown. Coach Lovie Smith spoke earlier this week of McCown's potential to be Jay Cutler's backup next season.
"The performance that Josh put in [Sunday] night was impressive," Smith said. "You normally can find a spot for a player who played the way he played."
Yet McCown said he's not worried about anything beyond Sunday's game against the Minnesota Vikings.
"I'm just looking at winning. If you're a competitor, you just want to win. That's my goal," said McCown. "Generally, at this position, if you play well, you put your team in a position to win and all the other stuff takes care of itself. So my goal is just to focus on beating Minnesota."
He did admit though that he'd like to play in the NFL next year.
"I would love to, moving forward," he said. "The desire to play is there obviously, and I enjoy playing. So if that's the plan, for me to be in the league, then that's where I want to be.
"But I want to cherish this moment and this opportunity to play and not look ahead. I think in the past, in some of my stops, you're always kind of planning for that next thing and you lose sight of what's in front of you and really enjoy how fun that moment can be. But you'd love to have a job and keep playing unless somehow that desire changes between now and March or April, but I don't see that happening."
Allen impressed with Bears run game
Vikings defensive end Jared Allen spoke with the Chicago media this afternoon. When asked about the play of McCown, Allen said he'd need to watch more tape to give a more-educated answer. Yet he was impressed with one aspect of McCown's game from Sunday night.
"He did a heck of a job handing the ball off, I'll tell you that much, because you guys ran the piss out of the ball," Allen said.
Against Green Bay, the Bears rushed the ball a season-high 42 times for 199 yards. RB Kahlil Bell led the way with 121 yards on 23 carries. It's safe to say the Bears will follow that blueprint against Minnesota on Sunday.
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Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. To read him every day, visit BearReport.com and become a Chicago Bears insider.