Time for a Change

<!--Default NodeId For Charles Tillman is 738190,2003--><A HREF=[PlayerNode:738190]>Charles Tillman</A> will get to meet his idol on Sunday. Up close and personal.

The Bears rookie cornerback was greeted with great news on Wednesday morning when he was told he'd be starting his first NFL game Sunday against Oakland. The downside is Tillman will be playing against future Hall-of-Famer Jerry Rice, who is considered the greatest receiver to ever play the game.

Tillman, who replaces Jerry Azumah in the starting lineup, grew up in Chicago and was only 4 years old when the Bears won the Super Bowl. That year, 1985, was also the same season that Rice came into the league.

"I remember back when I was in third grade. He was my favorite player," Tillman said. "I even had football cards of him."

Tillman is the son of an Army sergeant and attended 11 different schools from kindergarten to 12th grade. The Louisiana-Lafayette product was a second round pick of the Bears in this year's draft.

Tillman won't be the only change in the Bears lineup come Sunday. Rookie Lance Briggs, a linebacker out of Arizona, will start in place of Bryan Knight on the outside.

"Charles has played well. We've been impressed with Charles since Charles came in," Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache said. "Zoom (Azumah) has been a darn good player for us. When Zoom was a role player for us he was excellent. He may be better as a sixth man, coming off the bench, playing in a role as opposed to being structured as a starter."

Azumah, meanwhile, will replace Ahmad Merritt as the deep return man on kickoffs. Azumah, who played running back in college, missed a tackle on Ahman Green during Monday night's game, which turned into a 60-yard touchdown. The sad part is, Azumah was signed to a five-year, $12.2 million contract with a $2.5 million signing bonus before the 2001 season in another questionable move by general manger Jerry Angelo.

"I think everybody has the dream when they get drafted of coming in and starting. I'm a little more excited, but I'm treating the game like any other," Tillman said. "By me starting, I'm just trying to look to improve where we may have been messing up on."

The Bears figured it was time to make some changes. The team is 0-3 – the only winless team in the NFC -- and has the league's worst run defense to go along with an equally pathetic offense. New quarterback Kordell Stewart was sacked five times in Monday night's 38-23 loss to the Packers, running the sack total to 13. The Bears have lost 15 of their last 17 games, and the last seven losses have been by 10 points or more. Worse, the defense has allowed 22 of 42 third downs to be converted.

This could be a perfect time for the struggling Raiders (2-2), the AFC Super Bowl representative last season, to get back on track. It should also be a game for the Bears players to take a look in the mirror and come up with a sense of urgency.

"My thing is, go out there and take your job seriously," said frustrated defensive end Phillip Daniels. "I want to win, probably more than anybody on this team. The game doesn't last forever. You have to take every game, every play and play it likes it's your last. That's how you've got to approach this thing.

"You can't just go out there and throw your helmet on and expect to win."


Bear Report Top Stories