"...while no one on the defense will admit it, it’s pretty obvious that the players who have not bought in are living on that side of the football."
The best cure for what may ail a locker room? Winning. Unfortunately it didn't happen as often as we would have liked, and that same side of the football was - for reasons that were not entirely their fault - largely responsible for the team's failure to make the playoffs. Still, an upgrade in talent was needed, and made.
Brian Urlacher piped up after the end of the season with the claim that the Bears - by which he meant Phil Emery - were trying to purge Lovie Smith's players. It's certainly true that the likes of Henry Melton, Corey Wootton, Major Wright, Julius Peppers, Israel Idonije, Devin Hester, Nick Roach, and Urlacher himself are no longer on the team. Then again, neither are J'Marcus Webb, Gabe Carimi, the original
and still the best Chris Williams, or Kellen Davis. Phil did sign Tim Jennings to a four-year extension, and brought back Charles Tillman on a one-year deal after letting him test the market.
Something that was lost in the hubbub of coverage during the recent Chicago Bears veteran minicamp was a question that former Bears wide receiver turned sports radio host Tom Waddle brought up with ESPN Bears beat reporter Jeff Dickerson, an hour into this podcast of the Waddle & Silvy Show from June 18th:
Is Peanut Tillman buying into the new regime at Halas Hall?
Waddle was talking about here.interview at his charity bowling event, which you can watch
"If I would have gone to another team it probably would have been Tampa, so... it was just, I dunno, it just didn't work out the way any of us planned or... so I'm back in Chicago - but that's not a bad thing either, it's still a good place. It's still a good place to be, here."
If you watch it, you'll see what Waddle means when he says it's not exactly what you'd want to hear if you were in the Bears' front office. As Waddle put it, "It sounded like not only did he think it was going to happen in Tampa, but that's where he wanted to be," and mentioned the questions last year as to whether the Bears firing Lovie Smith may have left a bad taste in Tillman's mouth. Lip service or not, it's certainly not what you would expect if a veteran is meshing with a new coaching staff, unlike Lance Briggs' support of Mel Tucker staying on as defensive coordinator.
Does it matter? Once it's time to play, probably not. As Jeff Dickerson put it, "Tillman is a Sunday player" ...there's no question that he'll produce to the best of his ability, and the veteran cornerback is as thoughtful, well-spoken, and classy a guy as you'll find on or off the field of play. Nor is there any reason to think that's going to change.
However, as one of the two remaining core veterans from the previous regime on the defensive side of the team - Stephen Paea, Chris Conte, and Shea McClellin combined barely have the experience of one of them - it would be nice to think he could be Lance Briggs' lieutenant, rather than a veteran playing out a one-year contract because he didn't get an offer from another team that he wanted to jump ship to.
Professional sport is a business that leaves little room for sentimentality but - if this is to be his final year as a Bear, if not in the league - Tillman, the Bears, and the fans surely hope for a better end than that?