Charles Tillman has had a long, productive NFL career. He’s had ups, he’s had downs, he’s even played in a Super Bowl. Unfortunately, the Carolina Panthers cornerback won’t be able to play in a second one – at least not this season.
Tillman, 34, partially tore his ACL in November and fully tore the ligament in Carolina’s regular-season finale. He knows he’s not playing against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl 50, but that reality hasn’t fully set in yet.
“I think the hard part will be when you get to the locker room and you see your jersey and the helmets, everyone’s getting all taped up – I think that’s when it will settle in,” Tillman said on CBS Sports Radio’s The Doug Gottlieb Show. “But I’m also not that saddened by it because I have 53 brothers on that team that have my back, and I know they’re going to do everything in their power to try to win that game.”
If it seems like the Panthers (17-1) have a tight-knit team, well, that’s because they do. That’s what happens when you pair been-there, done-that vets with ultra-talented players just a few years removed from college.
“The thing about this team this year – people can get a sense of how tight we are,” Tillman said. “It’s not me telling you. You can see it when you watch us play. People are like, ‘Man, you guys look like you’re having fun. You guys look like you’re really close and super cool.’ That’s true. Guys hang out. We fellowship. We hang out outside of football. That’s kind of what you need. We go to dinners together, we break bread together. I think in order to have a good team, you got to hang out with each other. You got to fellowship. You got to go have a beer together.”
Chemistry is important NFL locker rooms, but it’s especially important on defense. From zones to blitzes, defenders have to trust that all 10 of their teammates will be where they need to be when they need to be there.
“Roman Harper says it all the time,” Tillman said. “He looks at one of our younger safeties, Tre Boston and (says), ‘Hey, Tre, I trust you.’ For your teammate to tell you and look you in the eye (and say that), that means something. When I make a mistake and I give up a touchdown or I miss a tackle or something like that, I genuinely feel and because I let 10 other guys down. I think when you play like that, when you start playing for another guy, playing for each other and playing selfless instead of selfish – that speaks volumes. That’s taking your talent – that’s taking your team – to another level.”
Several Panthers defenders are banged up, including Harper (eye), Thomas Davis (forearm) and Jared Allen (foot). All are expected to play Sunday, but will they be effective?
“I would say yes,” Tillman said. “There’s this thing that we have in us. It’s called adrenaline. I’ve done some crazy things game-wise on adrenaline. You can definitely have an adrenaline overdose. I’ve done that before. You have to control your adrenaline and how much is released. Trust me, I’ve played hurt many times, but when you’re not thinking about it, when you’re just in the moment, when you’re in the zone – you’re not tight, you’re just focused in – you can do a lot of stuff.”