Safety Net

Lake Forest - Charles "Peanut" Tillman, the team's best cover corner, is slated to return to the starting lineup Sunday for the first time since Week 2, when he suffered a chip fracture of the tibial plateau just under his right knee. In order to keep the playmakers on the field another starter is switching positions.

Tillman played about 20 snaps last week against Dallas and has been proclaimed 100 percent by coach Lovie Smith.

"Charles is a guy that keeps his body in great shape, and he continued to do that as he was coming back from the injury," Smith said. "He's a unique guy; he's a special corner. I think it's just a normal progression now to let him take off and go full speed, start the game and go from there."

The last time Tillman went up against Randy Moss, the Bears' cornerback got the best of the Pro Bowl receiver. Tillman came away with a game-winning interception in a jump ball situation against Moss. "I think I got a little bit of national pub over that play, but I'm over it though," Tillman said. "I'm not living off of it.

When asked if Moss is over the play Tillman replied, "I don't know. He might not be. He might still have one eye out to get me. We're going to see it on Sunday."

Jerry Azumah will start at the other corner spot, and R.W. McQuarters, who has been practicing all week at free safety, is likely to get the start in place of Todd Johnson.

The fact that McQuarters is coming off a two interception performance last week, one of which he returned for the Bears' only touchdown, played part in the experiment.

"We had a great player, our best defensive back, coming back and you want to get the best four on the field at the same time," Smith said. "That was behind the thinking of looking at R.W. at that position a little bit and that's what we're doing. We haven't made a complete switch or anything like that. We just wanted to see how he would look back there. R.W. is our best guy judging the ball, playing the ball. We really feel like we can use a guy like that at all times."

McQuarters has never played free safety at the professional level, but Smith has had success with a similar move in the past. Aeneas Williams, who had been a Pro Bowl corner, moved to safety in order to prolong his career.

"That's the ideal place to be if you would ask me as far as playing defense," Smith said. "You get a chance to play in the middle of the field, read the quarterback and make interceptions. Can't get any better than that."

Considering how often the Vikings employ three or more wide receivers rookie Nathan Vasher, who leads the team with four interceptions and has started five games, could be used when the defense goes to the nickel package.

Secondary coach Vance Bedford has one more trick up his sleeve to stop Moss and the Minnesota passing game.

"If he's running down the sideline, I'm going to trip the guy, just let him know," Bedford said jokingly of going up against Moss. "I owe him for a few years back when I didn't get any sleep, my rookie year coaching in this league thinking about the guy."


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