The member of the Bears who has spent the last decade in charge of guarding an opponent’s best receiver may occasionally be a bit guarded in his dealings with the media.
But Charles Tillman isn’t a fan of having to provide obvious answers to cookie-cutter, general questions. He goes ahead and does it anyway because he’s not one to rock his own team’s boat. And while he’s been very limited in providing interviews since re-signing with the Bears during free agency, those answers eventually came after Thursday night’s priority in Rosemont.
It was another in a long line of events The Charles Tillman Cornerstone Foundation conducts to help Chicago-area families in need of support when their children become seriously ill.
“Initially, we were an education-based foundation,” Tillman said. “Now we’re kind of helping families and sick kids. Our foundation has taken off in ways I could never imagine.”
Heading into Thursday’s Celebrity Pro BOWLer event at Kings Lanes, Lounge & Sports, the two-time Pro Bowler’s philanthropic efforts had raised more than $1 million for local families for almost 10 years. After his 3-month-old daughter required a heart transplant (on Father’s Day) six years ago, the successful procedure steered Tillman’s focus of the foundation to those families going through similar hardships, both emotionally and financially.
One would think that the giving back Tillman has done in the community and the Chicago area’s appreciation and support of his work on and off the field could have been a factor in his decision to come back to the Bears for less than half of the $8 million he made last seasonin the final year of his previous contract.
But he said Thursday night that’s not the case, even after making his only trip from among the other teams who expressed interest in him to ex-coach Lovie Smith’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“My reason for coming back here is, it was a good deal. I approached it as business. The Bears approached it as business. Other teams who were interested, that’s how we approached the free agency market. There was some other interest, but if I’d have gone to another team it probably would have been Tampa. I’m back in Chicago, and that’s not a bad place.”
And while he wanted to test the waters, general manager Phil Emery made it known he was wanted back if a price that would be suitable for the salary cap-strapped club and the proud, productive, two-time Pro Bowler.
“That’s all it was, crunching numbers," Tillman said. "They got the numbers they wanted and I got the number I wanted. We meet in the middle. Typical negotiation.”
Tillman was bowling “all-in” Thursday night, a good sign for a guy whose torn right triceps ended his 2013 campaign (which also included some knee issues) after nine games. He was just another in a long list of key defensive players who went down for parts, or all, of a season that wound up record-breaking bad for a side of the ball the franchise has built a reputation on.
Between health, and reinforcements brought in by Emery through free agency and the draft, he’s encouraged that the defensive side will make last year the exception rather than the rule.
“I think (Emery) impressed a lot of people by doing what he did. He was aggressive, so I tip my hat to him," he said. "If we can stay healthy, we’ll be a good team. Right now, on paper, we look great. Now it’s just a matter of taking that and transitioning it to the field.”
The Bears' three-day minicamp this week at Halas Hall beginning Tuesday will be the team's final work together before reporting to training camp in Bourbonnais next month.