Chicago Bears: Alshon Jeffery

Rapid Reaction: Chicago Bears

December, 28, 2014
12/28/14
3:55
PM ET

MINNEAPOLIS -- A few thoughts on the Chicago Bears' 13-9 loss to the Minnesota Vikings at TCF Bank Stadium.

What it means: The season is mercifully over. With team matriarch Virginia McCaskey and team chairman George McCaskey in attendance, the Bears' record dropped to a disappointing 5-11, the franchise's worst single-season finish since 2004 (also 5-11). Embattled head coach Marc Trestman awaits word on his future after posting a futile 13-19 record in two years on the job. For weeks, Trestman refused to directly answer questions related to job security, but ESPN.com’s Michael Wright reported Sunday morning that at least three assistant coaches expect to be fired. Now it’s only a matter of time before the general public learns Trestman’s fate.

General manager Phil Emery’s future is unknown. Emery hit on recent draft picks Alshon Jeffery, Kyle Long and Kyle Fuller, but he’s responsible for two colossal blunders: hiring Trestman and awarding quarterback Jay Cutler a lucrative contract extension. Emery watched Sunday's game in a private suite alongside the McCaskey family.

Stock watch: Defensive coordinator Mel Tucker is not a popular figure in Chicago. However, the defense turned out to be the least dysfunctional of the club’s three groups. Tucker’s defense limited Minnesota to three points and 118 total yards of offense in the first half. On multiple occasions throughout the year, the defense did enough to keep the Bears in games, only to be let down by the offense. Sunday was no exception. Fuller's early third-quarter interception, and subsequent return, gave the offense the football at the Vikings’ 9-yard line. Sadly, the Bears had to settle for a field goal.

Eventually, the defense made its share of mistakes in the second half -- including a busted coverage on Adam Thielen’s 44-yard touchdown reception -- but the effort was evident. The Bears even stopped Minnesota on fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line.

Trestman’s offense predictably struggled in Week 17, even with Cutler back at quarterback in place of concussed Jimmy Clausen. The Vikings' 15th-ranked total defense stymied the Bears for much of the afternoon. The Bears end 2014 without scoring more than 28 points in a single game.

Forte milestones: Bears tailback Matt Forte passed Larry Centers for the most single-season receptions by a running back (102). Forte also topped the 1,000-yard rushing plateau for the third consecutive season and the fifth time in his seven-year NFL career.

Game ball: In a lost year, Forte again proved to be one of the most versatile all-purpose tailbacks in the league, topping the Bears in rushing yards and catches. His current contract is set to expire following the 2015 season, meaning Forte’s agent is likely to press the Bears for another extension in the offseason.

What’s next: The Bears return home to Lake Forest, Illinois, for exit physicals and one final team meeting on Monday. While the team is scheduled to hold an open locker room period Monday for reporters, the Bears have not released any further media information.
Let’s take a quick spin around the Chicago Bears beat:
  • Here’s a notebook from Dan Wierderer of the Chicago Tribune chronicling everything from Halas Hall on Monday. Pay particular attention to the injury situation as cornerback Tim Jennings, receiver Alshon Jeffery, defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff, safety Chris Conte and right guard Kyle Long were held out of practice. The team doesn’t have to release an official injury report until later Monday.
  • Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times ponders how Lance Briggs will be remembered in Chicago.


  • Morrissey writes: I suspect we’ll appreciate Briggs more when he’s gone than we did while he was here. He and the city need a break from each other. Fans weren’t happy with his contract demands or with how much his play had slipped the past few seasons. But eventually the memory of a linebacker making play after play will win out. As it should.

  • Defensive tackle Stephen Paea is set to hit free agency. Will the Bears bring him back?
  • Kevin Fishbain takes a look at the opportunity Briggs’ absence creates for Jonathan Bostic.
  • The Bears are set to defend Dez Bryant coming off a game in which Detroit’s Calvin Johnson worked the defense for two touchdowns and 146 yards receiving.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears officially listed receivers Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and Brandon Marshall (ankle) as probable for Sunday’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Soldier Field.

The club ruled out defensive end Trevor Scott (knee), receiver Chris Williams (hamstring) and linebacker Darryl Sharpton (hamstring), while listing right tackle Jordan Mills (ribs), guard Eben Britton (illness), and cornerback Demontre Hurst (knee) as questionable.

Rookie defensive tackle Ego Ferguson (illness) is also probable.

Williams’ absence against the Bucs will set the stage for Marc Mariani to take over as the club’s primary kickoff and punt returner.

“He’s worked hard this week and he’ll be returning for us, both punts and kickoffs,” Bears coach Marc Trestman said. “He’s had a reliable week, picked up things he needed to pick up to get us going in the return, and we’re all feeling good about that.”

Mills’ availability, meanwhile, remains in question. If Mills can’t play against the Bucs, Michael Ola will replace him at right tackle. Mills has missed two of the team’s last three games, including last week’s win over the Minnesota Vikings.

“Right now we’re just going to see where he’s at,” Trestman said of Mills. “We’re not going to get into that point right now, just see where he is and make that determination over the next 48 hours.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery returned to the practice field inside the Walter Payton Center on Thursday, a day after the club held them out because of ankle and hamstring ailments.

Marshall and Jeffery participated in a limited capacity, but neither is expected to miss Sunday’s matchup against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Soldier Field.

Other limited participants included right tackle Jordan Mills (ribs) and guard Eben Britton (illness). In other injury news, the Bears held out cornerback Demontre Hurst (knee), defensive end Trevor Scott (knee), receiver Chris Williams (hamstring) and Darryl Sharpton (hamstring).

The Bears also held out veteran defensive end Jared Allen, but his absence wasn’t injury related.

Rookie defensive end Ego Ferguson (illness) returned to the practice field Thursday after being held out Wednesday, and receiver Josh Morgan (shoulder) participated fully Thursday after working Wednesday in a limited capacity.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears kicked off preparation Wednesday to host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers without the services of receivers Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring), as both were held out of the club’s practice inside the Walter Payton Center.

The Bears also held out defensive tackle Ego Ferguson (illness), defensive end Trevor Scott (knee), linebacker Darryl Sharpton (hamstring) and receiver Chris Williams (hamstring).

Right tackle Jordan Mills (ribs), guard Eben Britton (illness) and receiver Josh Morgan (shoulder) practiced in a limited capacity.

Linebacker Lance Briggs, running back Matt Forte and defensive lineman Jeremiah Ratliff were non-participants on Wednesday, but their inactivity was not injury related.
video
CHICAGO -- Brandon Marshall didn't stick around after Sunday's game to explain why he was waving his arms at Jay Cutler before hauling in his second touchdown during the Chicago Bears' 21-13 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

Cutler didn't see Marshall anyway.

"He was waving at me?" Cutler asked. "B acts like I don't know the formations or something. On that one, I worked to the short side [of the field] first, and Al [Alshon Jeffery] got covered up pretty good. So I just came backside, and B kind of had him posted up, and just made a heck of a play."

Cutler didn't need to see Marshall waving feverishly. All the quarterback needed was to find the mismatches against Minnesota's secondary, which is precisely what Cutler did in going after the diminutive Josh Robinson for all three of his scoring strikes.

At 5-feet-10, Robinson gives up six inches to the 6-feet-4 Marshall, and five to Jeffery (6-3).

Jeffery
Marshall
"We wanted to kind of go at [No.] 21," Cutler said. "We knew he was a little bit smaller. [No. 29 Xavier Rhodes has] got some length and some speed. So we wanted to put some balls up to our right side. We got a few opportunities to do it."

So many that Marshall and Jeffery combined for 225 yards and three touchdowns on 18 receptions with Robinson playing the victim's role on all three scoring connections.

On Jeffery's 27-yard touchdown in the second quarter, the Bears caught the Vikings in a single-high look, which means Robinson didn't have safety help over the top in coverage. Jeffery basically used his large frame to post up Robinson, bringing in the touchdown reception just before strong safety Robert Blanton made it over from the middle of the field to help.

"We knew what they were going to do, and they came out and did it," Robinson said. "I need to play better and that's the biggest thing I can take from this game. You can't be in position to make plays and not make them. If you're winning on a corner, you're going to keep going back at him."

That's precisely what the Bears did.

Late in the second quarter, the Bears caught the Vikings in quarters coverage (the corners and safeties are each responsible for covering a quarter of the field). Knowing Marshall possessed the speed to run past Blanton, Cutler let the ball loose as soon as the receiver cleared the safety, which would leave him one-on-one deep against Robinson. The play resulted in a 44-yard touchdown with 2:49 left in the second quarter to put the Bears ahead 14-10 after the extra point.

"I knew where he was going to be," Cutler said. "It was quarters, and he just split them. So I was just kind of waiting for him to get past the safety before I put it up. We didn't see that much man [coverage]. We saw a lot of three-deep, which turns into man I guess a little bit further down the field. They didn't play a ton of man on us."

The score marked just the second time this season, and eighth time in their three seasons together, that Marshall and Jeffery scored touchdowns in the same game.

"The most important thing is when they are one-on-one, we give them a chance to make a play," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "All three [touchdowns] were tremendous plays. The touchdown to Brandon was in the end zone to our left and to the right, and Alshon's play was cutting off defenders. We try to put the ball in a place where they can use their body in the catch radius, and we did that today."

That allowed the rest of Chicago's game to fall into place as the Bears won their first game of the season in which Cutler turned the ball over on multiple occasions. Cutler threw a pair of interceptions but expertly exploited mismatches between Minnesota's secondary and Chicago's giant receivers.

Once the Bears seized a 21-10 lead on Marshall's second touchdown, the club fully unleashed the rushing attack, allowing Matt Forte to rack up 117 yards on the ground. The Bears are now 18-5 in games Forte reaches 100 yards rushing.

"I would have changed up some coverages," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said when asked if he'd do anything differently against Chicago's receivers given the opportunity. "I can't make these guys taller."

Jay Cutler: WR Marquess Wilson can boost morale

November, 13, 2014
11/13/14
4:53
PM ET
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- All signs point to the Chicago Bears activating second-year wide receiver Marquess Wilson from short-term injured reserve prior to Sunday’s home game versus the Minnesota Vikings.

Wilson
Bears head coach Marc Trestman continues to classify Wilson’s status for Week 11 as “day-to-day,” but offensive coordinator Aaron Kromer confirmed Thursday that the organization opened up a roster spot specifically for Wilson with the release of veteran wideout Santonio Holmes on Tuesday.

“We got out of Santonio Holmes what he wanted to get out of Santonio Homes,” Kromer said. “Marquess Wilson is back, and so we needed a roster spot.

Santonio Holmes was an upstanding citizen here. He was a joy to be around. He was a model teammate. It’s just that we needed a roster spot for Marquess Wilson and that was the best person to do it with.”

Wilson officially returned to practice last Wednesday for the first time since fracturing his collarbone in training camp. The Bears technically have until Nov. 26 to activate Wilson or shut him down for the season.

“I feel pretty good,” Wilson said Thursday. “I feel like I’m getting [my wind] back to where it once was.”

Drafted in the seventh round by the Bears in 2013, the 6-foot-4 Wilson caught only two passes for 13 yards as a rookie, but he obviously developed some form of chemistry in the offseason with quarterback Jay Cutler.

Cutler sounded enthused about Wilson’s return, despite the fact that two proven, Pro Bowl wide receivers (Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery) have been at the quarterback's disposal the entire season.

“Practiced with him the last couple of days and I think he looks great,” Cutler said. “He’s still a little bit shaky just getting back into it, but I thought he had a better day today than he had yesterday. I was talking to [quarterbacks coach] Matt Cavanaugh about it; you forget how good he is at such a young player. We had him really going at training camp before he got hurt, so we were really excited about him. The guy gets hurt, goes on IR and you kind of forget about him a little bit because you have to move on. So getting him back is a little bit of a boost for us. Morale-wise and in the huddle he has fun, so it's fun to have him back.”
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery responded on Monday to Brian Urlacher's refusal to label Jay Cutler as an elite quarterback by saying Urlacher enjoyed a mutually beneficial on-field relationship with Cutler for better parts of five seasons.

"No, it didn't bother me. Everybody is entitled to their thoughts and opinions," Emery said. "It did hit a research project for me, so I went back and looked at their time together on the field at the same time starting the game healthy, they played 38 games together and during those games, they were 26-12. So, they definitely won together. When Jay was off the field and Brian started, they were 1-6. When Jay was on the field without Brian, they were 9-12. So the only thing that I can get from all that is they were really good for each other. They're both fine football players, lead in their own way and are both great for the organization. So, no, it didn't bother me."

Urlacher
Urlacher questioned the validity of including Cutler in the conversation of elite NFL quarterbacks during an interview last week with 87.7 The Game in Chicago.

"Financially, he is one of the elite guys in the NFL. ...He just hasn't produced like an elite quarterback," Urlacher said.

"You look at the Bradys, the Mannings, the Rodgers, the Brees, those guys win every year, even with no one around them. Rodgers has no offensive line. He wins. [Tom] Brady has no receivers. He wins.

Cutler
"And you look at Jay. He's got Brandon [Marshall], Alshon [Jeffery], Matt [Forte], this great offensive line, Martellus Bennett, and they can't seem to put it together, for some reason. I'm not sure if that's his fault, but for some reason, they just can't figure it out."

Cutler has a base salary of $22.5 million this season ($5 million was converted into a signing bonus in March) as part of a seven-year, $126.7 million contract extension he signed earlier this year, putting him at the top of the list of quarterback salaries in 2014.

Despite committing 12 turnovers (eight interceptions and four lost fumbles) in eight games, Bears coach Marc Trestman praised Cutler’s worth ethic and leadership on Monday. Cutler has completed 197-of-293 pass attempts (67.2 completion percentage) for 2,093 yards, 17 touchdowns for a quarterback rating of 95.8.

"His leadership has been at a premium through all of this on a consistent basis throughout the season," Trestman said. "We have to help him more in terms of playing better complementary football, giving him more of a run game and that goes to complementary football again. And that means everybody working together to get that done. But I think there's a lot of positives here and we're going to work to try and negate some of the negatives that we do see, that we want him to get better at."
The Chicago Bears lost on the field to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday, but received somewhat of a consolation prize off the field, finishing the last week ranked No. 1 as a team in jersey sales, according to Dick’s Sporting Goods Jersey report, which ranks jersey sales across the store’s websites.

The Bears ranked No.2 in jersey sales for the season behind the Cleveland Browns.

To date, receiver Brandon Marshall is the eighth-most popular jersey, according to the store’s jersey report. Four Bears rank in the top 20 of jersey sales, with Jay Cutler's jersey ranking No. 7, followed by Matt Forte at 11th and Alshon Jeffery at 18th.

No other team outside of the Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Philadelphia Eagles even had two players finishing in the top 20 of the rankings.

The Bears led Dick's Sporting Goods' NFL jersey sales in Illinois and Iowa.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- Before getting into thick of the Chicago Bears' next matchup at the Carolina Panthers, let's first take a look at the team's first-quarter report card after a 2-2 start:

Quarterback

Jay Cutler has completed 65.8 percent of his passes for 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. He's shown more discipline and better command of the offense, but costly turnovers have been an issue. If Cutler maintains his current level of efficiency, he'll set a career high in passer rating for the second consecutive season. Cutler currently ranks third in completions (102), ninth in yards (1,006) and is tied for second in touchdowns, and his passer rating is currently 94.7. Grade: B

Running back

Matt Forte finally broke through for his first 100-yard rushing performance against the Green Bay Packers and is currently tied for eighth in rushing yards (258), first in receptions at his position (24) and third in yards from scrimmage (452). Rookie Ka'Deem Carey is becoming more of a factor in the offense as well, and the Bears have employed formations that feature both backs in the game at the same time. Both backs average at least 4 yards per attempt. Grade: B+

Offensive line

Injuries in the season opener to center Roberto Garza and Matt Slauson gave cause for concern, but their replacements Brian de la Puente and Michael Ola have performed well. The group has given up eight sacks through the first four games. According to Pro Football Focus, every offensive lineman graded positively in run blocking against the Packers. Grade: B-

[+] EnlargeMartellus Bennett
David Banks/Getty ImagesThe offseason work tight end Martellus Bennett put in is paying off for the Bears.
Tight end

Martellus Bennett ranks second in catches (29th) among tight ends, fourth in yards (295) and is tied for second in touchdown receptions (four). Bennett put in the work during the offseason to prepare for a more significant role, and he appears to have developed a strong rapport with Cutler. Bennett has scored a touchdown in all but one game, while averaging 7.25 receptions. Grade: A

Receiver

Injuries have led to slow starts for Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall, who have combined for 36 receptions and six touchdowns through four games. But the duo is gradually getting back to full speed. The club's complementary targets such as Santonio Holmes and Josh Morgan haven't received many opportunities to showcase their talent, but they're plenty capable. Grade: B-

Defensive line

The Bears revamped the defensive line in the offseason with the additions of Jared Allen, Lamarr Houston and Willie Young in addition to drafting Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton. But the group certainly hasn't met expectations as the Bears rank 20th against the run while contributing just eight sacks (linebacker Shea McClellin is responsible for a sack as well). For the Bears to gain any level of consistency on defense with the style they play, the defensive line needs to step up its game, shut down the run and pressure the quarterback. Grade: D

Cornerback

The Bears are tied for fourth in the league in takeaways (eight), and rookie Kyle Fuller deserves credit for his team-high- three interceptions and two forced fumbles. Fuller became the only NFL player in the past 20 years with three interceptions and two forced fumbles in the first three games of the season. Obviously, Charles Tillman's season-ending triceps injury hurts the position. But the Bears are in decent shape with Fuller and Tim Jennings. The Bears need better play from the nickel corner spot. Grade: B-

Safety

Chris Conte gave up 46 yards on two catches and a touchdown against the Packers and missed a couple of tackles but for the most part has performed well (two interceptions). Ryan Mundy has been a solid run defender, and provided one of the team's takeaways with his pick-six Sept. 22 against the New York Jets. Overall, the safeties still need to play a little better. But they've been much more consistent than they were in 2013. Grade: C+

Linebacker

Shea McClellin entered the season as the starter on the strong side but has been on the shelf recently with a broken hand. Perhaps that's somewhat of a blessing in disguise as it has enabled the Bears to upgrade the overall athleticism of the starting lineup by replacing McClellin with Jonathan Bostic. The group lacks consistency in terms of gap integrity and pass coverage but is tracking positively. Grade: C-

Coaching

Coach Marc Trestman caught heat for the club's clock management in the second quarter to Green Bay, and you have to admit the Bears committed a few unnecessary penalties in the defeat, not to mention the thrown challenge flag that resulted in a lost timeout. Trestman deserves credit for suspending Bennett during training camp, because the move resulted in a positive change for the tight end. And you can't deny this Bears team did manage to pull together back-to-back road wins against strong opponents. Grade: C+

Overall

The consecutive road wins at San Francisco and New York followed by the stinker at home against Green Bay point to a lack of consistency in every facet of the game, and while injuries at key positions have been an issue, Chicago's situation plays out every week all over the league. So there are no excuses here. Ultimately, the Bears will be in decent shape in the second half of the season if they can finish the second quarter headed into the bye with a record of .500 or better.
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears announced Saturday they'd face the New York Jets on Monday night without center Roberto Garza (ankle), left guard Matt Slauson (ankle), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quadriceps), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion) and linebacker Shea McClellin (hand).

Ratliff
McClellin
The club held out all five players for Saturday's workout. Receivers Brandon Marshall (ankle) and Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) participated in a limited capacity, and are officially listed as questionable. Both are expected to play against the Jets.

In other injury news, the club officially listed defensive end Jared Allen (back), safety Chris Conte (shoulder) and receiver Josh Morgan (groin) as probable. Defensive end Trevor Scott (foot) is doubtful.

It was expected that Garza and Slauson would miss Monday's game after sitting out last week's win against the San Francisco 49ers, with Brian de la Puente and Michael Ola serving as their replacements. But the unavailability of Ratliff and McClellin forces the Bears to reshuffle the lineup for the starting defense.

With Ratliff out of the defensive line rotation, the Bears will lean more heavily on rookies Ego Ferguson and Will Sutton.

"That Sunday night game was a big test, and they played a decent amount of snaps," Allen said. "The game didn't seem too big for them, and sometimes that can be a problem with young guys. They kind of lose their minds out there, and they don't really remember their techniques or fundamentals. But they've been doing a great job of that. Both of them are powerful, and both of them have obviously a high skill set."

McClellin's expected absence means Jonathan Bostic will start at strong side linebacker.

McClellin participated on a limited basis on Thursday, but suffered a hand injury at practice that kept him out of action on Friday and Saturday.

"We've got a lot of different options," Bears coach Marc Trestman said. "We're disappointed for [McClellin] because he has been getting better. We've watched him so hard to learn a new position, get his body the way he's gotten it to play the position. We know he'll be out this week. We'll see where we are next week."

Allen practices, Marshall sits

September, 19, 2014
9/19/14
3:54
PM ET
LAKE FOREST, Ill. – Chicago Bears defensive end Jared Allen (lower back) practiced without restrictions on Friday, but wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) remained sidelined for a second consecutive day.

 Marshall and Allen are both expected to play Monday night versus the New York Jets.

Besides Marshall, six other Bears were held out of Friday’s practice: defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff
(concussion), linebacker Shea McClellin (hand), defensive end Trevor Scott (foot), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), center Roberto Garza (ankle) and left guard Matt Slauson (ankle).

McClellin’s situation took a turn for the worse. The linebacker had limited in participation in practice on Thursday, but he sat out the entire workout on Friday.

According to head coach Marc Trestman, McClellin suffered the hand injury in practice this week, not during the 28-20 victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Week 2.

In other health news, wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) and safety Chris Conte (shoulder) were both limited for the second straight practice, while receiver Josh Morgan (groin) had full participation. Morgan should be available to face the Jets.

Seven players sit out Thursday practice

September, 18, 2014
9/18/14
3:16
PM ET
LAKE FOREST, Ill. -- The Chicago Bears held seven players out of Thursday’s practice in advance of Monday’s night road game versus the New York Jets: center Roberto Garza (ankle), left guard Matt Slauson (ankle), cornerback Sherrick McManis (quad), defensive end Trevor Scott (foot), defensive tackle Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion), wide receiver Brandon Marshall (ankle) and defensive end Jared Allen (back).

 The Bears still have two more days of practice before the team departs for the New York/New Jersey area on Sunday afternoon.

In more encouraging news, safety Chris Conte practiced on a limited basis on Thursday after being forced to leave the 49ers game early because of a shoulder injury. Conte is tied for the team lead with two interceptions over the first two weeks of the regular season.

The Bears also listed wide receiver Alshon Jeffery (hamstring) as having limited participation. Jeffery was a game-time decision in Week 2 but still managed to have three catches for 47 yards. The Bears admitted afterwards that Jeffery played at less than full strength.

Linebacker Shea McClellin (limited) is dealing with a hand injury.

Wide receiver Josh Morgan practiced without restrictions on Thursday after a groin injury sidelined him for the 49ers game.
Charles Tillman said “this isn’t the end of the road for me” in a statement released by the team on Monday after it announced he’d go on the season-ending injured reserve due to a ruptured triceps. The first thought to come to mind was it may not be the end, but in Chicago it’s essentially over.

That’s not the way to think regarding a player of Tillman’s ilk. But reality is reality.

Tillman
Tim Jennings signed a four-year extension back in January worth $22.4 million, and rookie Kyle Fuller received a four-year deal with a club option for a fifth year which pays $9.687 million, including a signing bonus of $5.365 million.

Tillman, meanwhile, was playing on a one-year contract worth $3.25 million, and he signed that late after free agency proved fruitless.

Moving forward, the Bears can't afford to pay starter's money to three corners, especially with Jay Cutler's monstrous salary and potential extensions coming down the pipe for several players such as Brian de la Puente and Alshon Jeffery, just to name a couple.

Tillman certainly deserves to finish his career in Chicago. But with the corner set to turn 34 before the start of the 2015 season, it’s unlikely the Bears bring him back at a salary he wouldn’t find to be a slap in the face.

When Tillman hits free agency, he likely won’t be looking to break the bank. But he’ll definitely feel he’s worth more than a veteran minimum type of deal, which is probably what the Bears will offer given Tillman’s age, recent injury history, and the emergence of Fuller, who picked off a pair of passes Sunday in the club’s win at San Francisco. Besides that, if the Bears did decide to bring back Tillman for another season, would it be as a starter? Would he feel comfortable taking on the role as the nickel corner?

It’s sad to be pondering all this with emotions still raw, fewer than 24 hours after Tillman’s latest setback.

But that’s the reality we’re faced with; one in which special players such as Tillman always leave on someone else’s terms.

“He’s one of our leaders on this team, and much needed,” receiver Brandon Marshall said during his radio show Monday on ESPN Chicago 1000. “It’s sad for the city, it’s sad for our team, it’s sad for him.”

It truly is.

Tillman was correct in saying it’s not the end of the road, because it isn’t. Once Tillman rehabs from this injury, he’ll still be a player capable of starting and playing at a high level in the NFL.

But the problem is this team, even before Tillman’s injury, has already moved on. If Brian Urlacher and Devin Hester have taught us anything, it’s the fact the Bears -- like every other team in the NFL -- always moves on.

Five things we learned vs. 49ers

September, 15, 2014
9/15/14
4:20
AM ET
SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Here are five things we learned in the Chicago Bears' 28-20 victory against the San Francisco 49ers:

1. NFL is a wild league: Never envisioned the Bears defeating the 49ers in brand new Levi’s Stadium. Especially not after the Bears lost at home in Week 1 to the Buffalo Bills, while San Francisco went on the road and dismantled Dallas. But the NFL is fluid. Calling it a week-to-week league isn’t simply a cliché. It’s the truth. You just never really know what is going to happen on any given Sunday. That is what makes it fun. Would I pick the 49ers again if the two teams re-match in the playoffs? Absolutely. In a heartbeat. But even though I still firmly believe San Francisco is the more talented team, the Bears won on Sunday night. The NFL is unpredictable. Embrace it. I mean, the Bills are 2-0. What is this football world coming to?

[+] EnlargeJon Bostic
AP Photo/Marcio Jose SanchezJon Bostic and the defense kept the Bears in the game until the offense found a spark.
2. Proud effort on defense: It took the offense until the end of the first half to have a pulse, but the defense came to play from the opening whistle. The 49ers seemed poised to blow the game wide open, but the defense held San Francisco to only 17 first-half points. That is a major accomplishment when you consider the offense and special teams put the defense in bad spots with penalties and poor play. Mel Tucker’s defense produced four turnovers, limited the 49ers to 129 yards rushing, and sacked Colin Kaepernick four times. Not even key injuries to Charles Tillman (triceps), Chris Conte (shoulder) and Jeremiah Ratliff (concussion) slowed the group down.

3. Kyle Fuller belongs: Fuller is fast approaching Kyle Long status: a first-round draft choice talented and smart enough to make an immediate impact. Fuller looks to be a keeper. His two fourth-quarter interceptions were critical plays. If Fuller fails to get a turnover on either occasion, who knows if the outcome of the game would have changed. It is entirely possible the Bears lose without Fuller’s heroics. The plan always called for Fuller to contribute as a rookie. But Tillman’s injury opens the door for Fuller to get a jump on permanently lining up at cornerback in the base defense, not just in the nickel sub-package. Fuller seems to have adapted to life in the NFL. Not every game will be great. A cornerback will have his share of bad moments versus the plethora of great receivers in the league. But Fuller appears to be confident and mature enough to handle it.

4. Credit to Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery: The Pro Bowl wide receiver tandem played at less than full-strength in Week 2. But Marshall (ankle) and Jeffery (hamstring) pushed past their respective injuries. Marshall, in particular, had a memorable performance with three touchdown catches, including a spectacular one-handed grab on a 17 yard score in the closing seconds of the first half. Jeffery managed to haul in just three passes for 47 yards, but his mere on-field presence aided the Bears’ offense. The extra day before the Week 3 Monday night game against the New York Jets should help the wideouts further heal.

5. What’s worse, special teams or officiating? Pat O'Donnell's 47.6 yard per punt average (32.3 net) saved the Bears from complete embarrassment on special teams. But that phase of the team needs to get its act together. Penalties, blocked punts, lackluster returns ... we’ve seen it all in 2014. Another team that has been suspect is the officiating. The game took forever on Sunday, partly because the officials tossed 26 flags that were accepted. Many more were declined or waived off. Too many. The flow of the game is being stunted by all the yellow flags. I’ve also noticed it is taking certain crews much longer to come to a consensus on calls or explain why a decision is made. Come on everybody, the preseason is over. Act like it.

SPONSORED HEADLINES