Tillman sidelined by back surgery

Updated: July 28, 2009, 10:49 PM ET
By Jeff Dickerson | ESPNChicago.com

With camp set to open in just a few days, the Bears have suffered their first setback of the summer.

As ESPN 1000 and ESPNChicago.com reported Monday night, starting cornerback Charles Tillman will miss at least the beginning of training camp. The team Web site confirmed a Chicago Tribune report that Tillman underwent a surgical procedure on his back.

The procedure, performed two weeks ago, was to remove a piece of disc fragment, according to the team site.

The Bears are hoping Tillman can recover in time to start in the Sept. 13 regular-season opener in Green Bay, the team site reported.

A story on the Bears' site quoted Tillman as saying: "I'll be fine for the season. There's no need to panic. When I panic, then you can panic. But I'm not panicking, so we're good.

"[Things] happen. I'm just glad it happened now versus in the season. But I'm all right. I'm always optimistic."

Chronic shoulder problems forced Tillman to undergo a reconstructive procedure on his right shoulder earlier this offseason, but he returned to action at the tail end of organized team activities. The veteran also missed the final two regular-season games in 2006 with a back injury.

It's unknown what kind of impact this news will have on the Bears' secondary. The logical move may be for Lovie Smith to move Corey Graham back to corner and abandon the idea of sliding Graham inside to safety.

Other possibilities include promoting promising second-year player Zack Bowman, or perhaps turning to Danieal Manning, who started two games at right cornerback for the Bears in 2007.

Of the three, returning Graham to cornerback seems the most plausible.

Jeff Dickerson | email

Chicago Bears beat reporter
Dickerson has been the Bears beat reporter for ESPN Chicago since 2004. He also hosts weeknight radio shows on ESPN 1000.