Tillman's future cloudy, but he's not done

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
1:48
PM ET
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman cleaned out his locker Monday at Halas Hall, but maintained he's not done playing.

Tillman said he can't imagine playing anywhere else but Chicago, but at age 32 (he'll be 33 at the start of the 2014 season) with a now expired contract, it's a definite possibility.

"Eleven years here is truly an honor," Tillman said. "I'm truly blessed with the McCaskey family with what they've done, for them taking a chance on a little scrawny kid out of Lafayette, Louisiana. I'm not really worried about it. I've got some decisions I have to make here in the next couple of weeks, couple of months. I'm just going to see what happens."

A Pro Bowler in 2011 and 2012, Tillman played in eight games in 2013 before suffering a torn triceps that forced the Bears to place him on injured reserve on Nov. 11. Tillman picked off three passes this season, and ranks third in franchise history with 36 picks in 154 games. In all, Tillman forced six turnovers, taking into account the three fumbles he forced.

Since coming into the league in 2003, Tillman ranks in the top 10 in the NFL in interceptions (tied for fifth), INT return yards (fifth with 675 yards), INT return touchdowns (eight, which ties for second), forced fumbles (second, with 42) and pass breakups (133, which ranks No. 5).

But for the first time in his NFL career, Tillman walked out of Halas Hall at the end of a season feeling uncertain about his future with the organization. The Bears haven't given any indication of whether the team wants to bring him back, although Tillman said "I think they do, I think they will."

Tillman's contract paid $7.95 million in 2013, and it's not likely the Bears would be inclined to re-sign him to a similar deal.

"I think I'm OK.with it," Tillman said. "I think it's the first time in my life I've had to make decisions like this. But I don't know. I'm just kind of waiting to see how it plays out. I'm not stressing. I'm not worried about it. Whatever happens is going to happen. Whatever happens is going to be for the good."

Once scenario that has a realistic chance of panning out is a reunion with former Bears coach Lovie Smith, provided the coach lands one of the many current vacancies around the league. If Tillman stays in Chicago, there's a good chance he could be a part of an extensive rebuilding process on defense.

Given how the group performed in 2013, coupled with the fact it now has several expired contracts, it's almost guaranteed the defense will change dramatically for 2014. Fourteen Bears that have started games throughout their careers with the organization, including 10 that started games in 2013, have expiring contracts.

"It's something I've got to think about," Tillman said. "Like I said, I'll have some decisions I have to make in the next couple days, weeks or months."

Michael C. Wright

ESPN Chicago Bears reporter

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