Charles Tillman knew something was wrong with his right arm as soon as it happened.
It was in the second half of the Bears’ loss to the Detroit Lions and Tillman got his hands on Lions receiver Calvin Johnson during the play and “I felt something kind of strain, perhaps tear,” Tillman said on Monday. “I just felt a sharp pain.”
That pain will be felt all through the Bears roster, with Tillman going on injured reserve with a triceps injury that effectively ends his season unless the Bears rally to make the playoffs. The Bears are using the eligible-to-return designation that allows him to practice after six weeks and return after eight, in season that has seven games remaining.
The loss elevates Zackary Bowman to starting right cornerback. Bowman had the starting job in 2009, starting 12 games and finishing with a career-high six interceptions. But he was back to a reserve role with three starts in 2010 and was signed as a reserve by the Minnesota Vikings last offseason.
Bowman was subsequently cut by the Vikings and played 11 games for the Bears, primarily on special teams. He collected two tackles, two pass breakups, a fumble recovery for a touchdown and 11 special-teams stops. Bowman played five snaps against the Lions in place of Tillman and was credited with one tackle.
But to see Tillman, generally regarded as the best cornerback in franchise history in a Bears uniform again this season, possibly ever again, the Bears will need to make the playoffs.
Tillman is playing out his contract this season at $8 million and was approached about restructuring his deal before the season. Sources told CSNChicago.com that the talks were contentious and cast Tillman’s future beyond 2013 in question, particularly with him turning 33 next February.
He does not dismiss the possibility that Sunday may have been his last game as a Bear.
“Potentially, possibly, yeah,” Tillman said to a question about that prospect. “But I guess I hadn’t really thought about it until you just said it. So, thanks, for spoiling the mood.”
Tillman has now been hampered by the triceps, a knee, a groin strain and a wrist injury that took him out of the Detroit game briefly.
But the injury pain is only part of the situation.
“Yeah, it hurts. I’m definitely sad,” Tillman said. “This team has a lot, we have a lot of potential. The fact that I’m no longer a part of that to help this team further succeed, that’s the part that hurts. My role right now is to be the biggest cheerleader and supporter on the sideline.”