Stop me if you've heard this before: the Chicago Bears placed a defensive starter on injured reserve today. Two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Tillman joins Kelvin Hayden, Henry Melton, Nate Collins and D.J. Williams on IR, in addition to long-term injuries for Lance Briggs and Shea McClellin.
Tillman suffered a triceps injury in yesterday's loss to the Detroit Lions.
"I knew something happened in the second half," Tillman said today. "I don't know exactly what play, I just remember shoving Calvin on one play and I felt something kind of strain, perhaps tear. I just felt a sharp pain."
Tillman, who said the injury will not require surgery, was given the lower of the two IR designations and could return if the Bears make the playoffs this year. In his place, the Bears turn to six-year veteran Zack Bowman to start alongside Tim Jennings at wide corner.
"He's a veteran. He's been in this defense a while. He's been a starter on this defense before Tim got here. So I think Zack Bowman is a good fit," said Tillman. "He's the next man up and I have nothing but confidence and faith in Zack. I think he can get the job done."
In the short term, Tillman will have to watch the rest of the regular season from the sidelines, a view from which he's not accustomed, having played in 14 or more games in all but one of his previous 10 seasons in the NFL.
"It sucks. Let's be real. I don't envision myself watching games from the sidelines. To me that's foreign. I don't like it. I hate it, but I understand why I was on the sideline, because of my knee," said Tillman. "All I have to do is be a cheerleader, help out [defsive backs coach] Jon Hoke and [assistant defensive backs coach] Chris Harris and [defensive coordinator] Mel Tucker. If they need something or I see something, they have an extra set of eyes and some experience on the sidelines with them. I'm not fond of coaching but I guess I'm being thrown into it so I'm willing to help out and do my part.
"The best thing I can do right now is be the biggest cheerleader. We don't have them but you're looking at one right now. I'm not putting the skirt on but I can definitely scream, shout, show my support for my teammates. I know if they were in my situation, they would probably do the same."
In the long-term, this injury will force Bears brass to make a difficult decision when Tillman's contract expires this upcoming offseason. He'll be 33 years old next year and will be coming off soft tissue injuries to both his knee and triceps.
"I was never playing on [the knee] 100 percent, just doing the best I could, playing through some pain, just trying to tough it up," Tillman said.
Tillman has been a stalwart in Chicago for the past decade and is easily the greatest cornerback to play in the Windy City. He ranks third in franchise history with 36 interceptions and first in forced fumbles (42) and fumble/interception return touchdowns (nine). Since 2003, Tillman ranks in the Top 10 in the league in interceptions, interceptions returned for touchdown and forced fumbles.
Yet his age and recent injury history, as well as looming free agency, could mean Tillman has played his last snap as a member of the Monsters of the Midway. When asked about the possibility he had played his last NFL game, Tillman responded:
"Potentially, possibly, yeah," he said. "My whole view and thought process is I'm still a Bear. So when I'm no longer a Bear then we can talk about that. But for right now I'm still an employee of this organization so no need to talk about it."
This could potentially be a sad ending to a very distinguished career. Chicago's defense has struggled due to numerous injuries and the loss of Tillman just punctuates a brutal string of maladies, which could derail the Bears' chances of making the playoffs.
"It's just one of those seasons, man," said Tillman. "It's the national football league. I think it happens to every team at least once a year. It just so happened, the injury bug, it has a hold of our team for some reason.
"This team, we have a lot of potential. The fact that I'm no longer a part of that, to help this team further succeed, that's the part that hurts."
Jeremy Stoltz is Publisher of BearReport.com and a member of the Pro Football Writers of America. He is in his third season covering the Chicago Bears full time. Follow Bear Report on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Bear Report Web site or magazine, click here.