Beyond Tillman: Anatomy of a 'swarm'


Beyond Tillman: Anatomy of a 'swarm'

NASHVILLE Members of the Bears defense are approaching a rarified place. Beyond planning for takeaways. Beyond even expecting them.

The Bears are no longer surprised when a football comes loose. Particularly when Charles Tillman is nearby, players admitted they are becoming surprised when the football does not come free.

We do, we do expect it to come out, said defensive end Julius Peppers.

Safety Chris Conte has seen enough to know: You expect it every time and then youre surprised when it doesnt come out, because most of the time, it is.

What has crept into the Bears thinking is a swarm mentality that goes beyond even coaches preaching of running to the ball.

Along with the expectation that the football will be available has come a supercharged effort to get there, to not be the one not around when the turnover is forced.

Call it a constructive fear of being left out.

Youd better run to the ball because 33 is going to get it out, Peppers said. Youre going to get a chance for a tip or interception so you better get there.

For Conte and safety mate Major Wright, Thats how we have to think, Conte said. You dont want to not be there when the ball comes out.

Tillman legend growing

Tillman took another giant step four of them, actually toward being named NFL defensive player of the year for 2012. His four forced fumbles in the 51-20 crushing of the Tennessee Titans had even teammates whove seen him do this for year shaking their heads.

I think we are all seeing history being made, said linebacker Lance Briggs. Ive never seen anybody whos been able to do the things hes able to do, and do it consistently.

Tillmans four forced fumbles, part of a total of six footballs knocked loose from Titans, along with an interception return for a touchdown by Brian Urlacher, gave Tillman seven through eight games.

It is a must. A mindset. A mantra.

I dont think it is difficult, Tillman said. It is always on my mind. I am very conscious of it. I speak it. I believe it. It happens.

What made Tillmans and the Bears performance even more jaw-dropping was that the Titans spent all week with their coaches drilling into their heads that the Bears would be coming after the ball. Perhaps that spooked the Titans. Perhaps not.

The coaches tipped us good on how well they force turnovers, said running back Chris Johnson, who lost two himself.

Whether the Titans took the tips seriously enough is for them to sort out. And they may simply have been the wrong team in the wrong place when the takeaway tsunami was coming in.

Ive never seen anything like it, Urlacher said. Every week it seems like we are talking about one of those two corners Tillman, Tim Jennings doing something like that. Its unbelievable.

SportsTalk Live: David DeJesus discusses time spent with Joe Maddon, World Series criticism

SportsTalk Live: David DeJesus discusses time spent with Joe Maddon, World Series criticism

"Be sexy."

That was one of two rules manager Joe Maddon told David DeJesus when the Tampa Bay Rays acquired him in 2013.

DeJesus appeared on SportsTalk Live on Wednesday to discuss his time spent with Maddon in Tampa Bay.

"Just be yourself out there," DeJesus said of Maddon when the Rays traded for him. "I want you to have fun and I want you to just have that ora of 'just don't worry, just go out there and play.' It kept the whole team loose."

DeJesus also shared his thoughts on Maddon's questionable managerial decisions in the World Series.

Hear that, and more, in the video above.

Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture

Between Cubs' victory lap and Hall of Fame vote, Sammy Sosa barely staying in the picture

Sammy Sosa has stayed so far off the radar that his long-running absence from Cubs Convention didn't even come up during last weekend's Q&A session with ownership.

And the Cubs can't go viral all the time and dominate every offseason news cycle, with the National Baseball Hall of Fame revealing the election results on Wednesday and welcoming Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez as part of its 2017 class.

But it's become out of sight, out of mind for Sosa, who barely crossed the 5-percent threshold (8.6) needed to remain on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot for another year.

Sosa — a seven-time All Star, 1998 National League MVP and the franchise's all-time leader with 545 home runs (and 609 overall) — hadn't gained any traction at all during his first four years under BBWAA consideration, hovering between 12.5 and 6.6 percent.

It's complicated with Sosa, a diva personality who experienced a dramatic late-career renaissance and got named in a New York Times report that exposed him as one of the players who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug in 2003 (during what was supposed to be an anonymous survey).

The Cubs have undergone a complete makeover since Sosa walked out in 2004, leaving him without many allies in the organization. It's nothing personal, but in the past the Ricketts family has hinted that Sosa could mend certain fences and fill in some of the blanks he once left open during an unconvincing performance in front of Congress.

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The Cubs brought Hall of Famers Billy Williams, Fergie Jenkins and Ryne Sandberg to meet President Barack Obama during their Martin Luther King Jr. Day visit to the White House and keep adding former players to the front office. It's awkward after a World Series run where so many alumni showed up to do TV work, throw first pitches, spray champagne or simply watch a rare playoff game at Wrigley Field.

— If Sosa's looking for a roadmap, Manny Ramirez did his penance and cooperated with Major League Baseball to the point where Cubs president Theo Epstein shockingly hired him as a Triple-A Iowa player/coach in the middle of the 2014 season, something that would have been unthinkable during their clashes with the Boston Red Sox.

As a hitting consultant, Ramirez took a come-and-go-as-you-please arrangement, becoming a national story during the 2015 playoffs but largely staying away from the 2016 championship team, perhaps gearing up for his independent-ball comeback in Japan this year. Even after failing multiple drug tests, one of the greatest right-handed hitters of his generation still finished at 23.8 percent in his first year on the BBWAA ballot.

— Lee Smith (34.2 percent) — a drafted-and-developed Cub and the franchise's all-time leader with 180 saves — didn't come close in his 15th and final time on the BBWAA ballot. Smith had been grandfathered when the Hall of Fame narrowed the eligibility window to 10 years, possibly trying to squeeze Steroid Era symbols like Roger Clemens (54.1 percent) and Barry Bonds (53.8 percent).

— This will make Cub fans feel old: Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano are Hall of Fame-eligible for the first time in 2018, when based off this year's returns Trevor Hoffman (74) and Vladimir Guerrero (71.7) should be building momentum toward the 75 percent needed for induction into Cooperstown.