BREAKING: Peanut Tillman has back surgery; likely to miss most of training camp

We’re still three days until the start of what is being called “Camp Cutler”, but some attention is shifting from prized acquisition Jay Cutler and turning toward the Bears defense.  According to the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Bears cornerback Charles “Peanut” Tillman underwent arthroscopic surgery on his back and is expected to miss most of training camp. From David Haugh’s article this evening:

The Bears will start practice Friday without starting cornerback Charles Tillman, their most proven defensive back, who will be out indefinitely with a back injury, the Tribune has learned.

Tillman recently underwent an arthroscopic surgical procedure to clean up a disc in his back. A similar condition caused him to miss the final two games of 2006. If the recovery goes well, the Bears expect Tillman to be back in time to play in the final preseason game Sept. 3 so he can see some action before the Sept. 13 season opener.

The curse of the North Shore University Health Systems strikes already!  What was I saying when the Bears announced their practice jerseys would be sponsored by a hospital chain? Oh yeah: 

Let me go on record saying I don’t like this.  Sponsored by a bunch of hospitals?  Are you asking for injuries?  It just seems like bad mojo to me.

It doesn’t sound like it’s too serious, but back injuries scare the heck out of me.  Last year’s first round draft pick Chris Williams had preseason back surgery and it virtually cost him the season.  I don’t believe Tillman’s injury is nearly as serious as Williams’, but Peanut is a key to the Bears defense and his absence creates a domino effect in the secondary.

The Bears D struggled mightily last season, especially against the pass.  The Bears ranked 30th (yes, that’s not a misprint – 30th) against the pass in 2008.  Most will tell you that’s because teams didn’t even bother to run on the Bears while others will tell you that the struggles in the pass defense were really issues up front with the pass rush.  Nathan Vasher, Corey Graham and Zack Bowman will be counted on to step up in the secondary.

Graham filled in pretty well when Vasher struggled with injuries of his own last season while Bowman turned some heads in limited duty last season and during offseason workouts.  The injury also puts more heat on the safety spots that will be without the veteran leadership of Mike Brown for the first time this decade.  Graham was slated to push Craig Steltz at the Free Safety spot, but one would have to believe that he’d be moving back to corner.  It will be interesting to see how everyone lines up when camp opens on Friday.

Tillman is the most reliable player in the Bears secondary.  He’s solid in coverage and great in run support.  He has become infamous for stripping the ball and punching it out from opponents.  He missed much of camp last summer to tend to his ill daughter, but now, he’s the one on the mend.  Wishing him a speedy recovery!

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Tags: Charles Tillman Charles Tillman Back Surgery Chicago Bears Chicago Bears Blogs Corey Graham Craig Steltz Nathan Vasher Peanut Tillman Zack Bowman

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