Player Diary

<!--Default NodeId For Charles Tillman is 738190,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:738190]>Charles Tillman</A> missed the three days of training camp before signing a five-year deal with the Bears. The team is expecting Tillman to improve a defense that only had nine interceptions. Tillman looks back on his first week of camp in his diary.

Bio: Cornerback Charles Tillman was acquired in the 2nd round (35th pick overall) of the 2003 NFL draft. The 6-1 195 pounder is a graduate of Louisiana-Lafayette where he was a four year starter, a two-time all Sun Belt Conference selection and earned all-America honors. Tillman totaled 284 career tackles with two sacks, nine TFLs, seven forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries, 12 INTs, 31 PDs and three blocked kicks.

Diary I'm delighted to have been drafted by the Bears. It's a team I have always followed. Since I have family living in Chicago, it will finally give them a chance to see me play. My grandparents and nieces and nephews have never had the chance to watch me during a game. They're really excited about that and so am I.

I lived in Chicago until I was five, then we came back for a while in sixth grade, so this area is somewhat familiar to me. My dad was in the army so we ended up moving around a lot. In many ways, though, by joining the Bears I feel that I am coming home.

I've been doing pretty well so far here at camp. There have been some adjustments of course. Everybody has their up days and their down days, but I've been happy with what I've been able accomplish.

I get asked all the time whether my status as a holdout has damaged my relationships with any of the players. Yes, I was the last rookie to sign, but I think that everybody understands that it was purely a business decision. A couple of the guys on the team were holdouts before and they understood that I wasn't doing it for more money, just for the term of the contract. It was a question of whether it would be for five years or for four. I feel that we came to a satisfactory understanding and that we can go on from here.

I am making the adjustment to professional football as well as can be expected. Everybody always talks about the difference in the speed of the game between college and the pros. They're right, it is a lot faster here, but It's nothing I can't adjust to in time. Jerry Azumah, Mike Brown and secondary Coach Vance Bedford are all making a real effort to help me along. Right now, I'm working primarily on techniques and on getting consistent.

The level of play in the NFL is really something. You see right away why these guys are all professionals. To me, they seem perfect. They're all tough. They're all fast. They're big and they're really good. They can't afford to make mistakes. That can be intimidating. What a rookie needs to do is to raise his level of skills accordingly.

My strong point is my size. I'm pretty big for a cornerback, but I can still move well. I also feel that I am a quick learner with football intelligence. My weakness right now is my press technique, my bump and run. Coach Bedford has been running me through drills on that after practice. I'm trying to refine my techniques so I am comfortable when the regular season begins.

People ask me where I went to college and when I say that I graduated from Louisiana-Lafayette, which is a small school, they say ‘what kind of a football player comes from there?' Well, that's cool. I can deal with that. In fact, it's something that makes me work that much harder.

Playing professional football is really not about where you went to school. What I am proud of is that I was drafted in the 2nd round and 35th overall. If you're creating good plays, then you'll get recognized. What counts, is that somebody recognized my abilities and here I am. Didn't some guy named Walter Payton come from a college nobody had ever heard of?

I am competing for the nickel position. Everything is up for grabs. There are several players with a lot of ability at cornerback right now. We all want the job and you can be sure it will be a real dogfight until we get this all sorted out. It's just like when I went to college as a freshman. Nothing is just handed to you. You have to earn whatever you get. That makes you a better player and person.

Beth Gorr contributed to this piece.

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