Can Bears convey again the Peanut Punch and the Chicago takeaway machine? Charles Tillman offers some tips about easy methods to make it occur.


When Chicago Bears rookies convened for his or her first minicamp in May, their introduction to franchise historical past got here from one of many group’s most prolific creators of takeaways.

In Charles Tillman’s speech to the newcomers and later in non-public conversations, he provided recommendation on easy methods to be an expert, on the way in which gamers should change their work and attitudes going from faculty to the NFL and on what soccer group means to Chicago.

And he additionally relayed this little bit of knowledge, which he got here to know throughout 12 years with the Bears while totaling a franchise-record 42 forced fumbles together with 36 interceptions, ranked third in group historical past.

“This ball is worth a lot of money,” Tillman recalled in a dialog with the Tribune. “There are 22 folks on the sphere and there’s one soccer. And if you happen to can one way or the other make this soccer come out of the opposite man’s hand or you may get this soccer loads, it’ll make you wealthy.

“And it will win you a lot of games. More importantly, it will get you the respect around the league for the kind of player you are.”

As Bears coaches have revealed the defensive id they’re attempting to create and gamers have talked in regards to the fanaticism with which they’re anticipated to go after the ball, Tillman’s go to to Halas Hall appeared like the proper alternative for coach Matt Eberflus to set a tone.

Tillman was a part of a Bears defense that ranked in the top 10 in takeaways in seven of Lovie Smith’s 9 seasons. Under Eberflus’ mentor Rod Marinelli as defensive coordinator in 2012, Tillman put collectively an All-Pro season that included 10 compelled fumbles and three pick-sixes because the Bears led the NFL with 44 takeaways.

And Tillman, nicknamed “Peanut” at delivery, is the namesake of the “Peanut Punch,” the method to pressure a fumble that also is referenced weekly across the NFL.

“The turnover is named after him, so to know how much of what he did is so popular and so famous, it puts a little bit on you,” Bears rookie cornerback Kyler Gordon mentioned. “You wish to add these instruments to your field and do no matter you are able to do to get these turnovers.

“It’s really built into our whole culture, just being fanatical about getting the ball out and punching all the time and being consistent and finding ways to create turnovers.”

Eberflus and defensive coordinator Alan Williams have dropped at the Bears their HITS precept, with similarities to Smith’s philosophies, that final season helped the Indianapolis Colts protection complete 33 takeaways, second within the NFL.

Can the Bears return to the custom of being a takeaway machine? Tillman had some ideas about what it takes, beginning along with his well-known punch.

‘Second nature’

In the Halas Hall cafeteria after Tillman’s speech, keen seventh-round choose Elijah Hicks tracked down Tillman chatting with Eberflus and sought pointers.

It was a thrill for the rookie security.

“That’s the OG right there,” Hicks mentioned, noting he has watched clips of Tillman’s signature transfer since he was in highschool, although it was gaining steam lengthy earlier than that.

Tillman doesn’t know the place the identify got here from. He imagines an editor someplace suggesting “The Peanut Punch” and exclaiming, “Run with it! Print!”

The origin of the transfer, although, is one Tillman has instructed a number of occasions.

In a 1999 game against Wofford, Tillman, a Louisiana-Lafayette cornerback, had 20 tackles whereas taking part in in entrance of his former high school coach, Rodney Southern. When they met after the sport, Southern instructed him, “Man, if you would have just swatted the ball, you would have had five or six fumbles.”

“It was kind of like a light bulb that went off,” Tillman mentioned.

The following season, Tillman knew he was sooner than many of the opposing gamers and purposely took unhealthy pursuit angles on tackles so he may punch the ball out from behind. He grew to become so good at it, his teammates knew what was coming and had been ready to scoop up the ball.

But when the Bears drafted Tillman within the second spherical in 2003, he realized he now not may use the identical techniques.

“I couldn’t purposely take bad pursuit angles because, just as fast as I thought I was, those guys were faster,” Tillman mentioned. “I started punching it out as I made the tackle as the guy was coming up. My very first game (against the San Francisco 49ers), it was a special teams play, I punched it out. … Day 1, forced fumble.”

Tillman’s lengthy arms and talent to wrap up whereas additionally going for the punch made him so good at it that he averaged 4.9 compelled fumbles per season from 2007-13. He believes his mindset to safe the deal with first minimized the danger that comes with such a transfer.

Since retiring after the 2015 season, Tillman has visited the Carolina Panthers and Buffalo Bills to show the punch, and coaches generally will name him to assist gamers with it. A good friend known as him from a training clinic in Texas to inform him they had been educating it.

Bears gamers mentioned they observe the punch and strip makes an attempt each day, with Gordon joking he gave himself a “Peanut Punch assist” for his try in opposition to the Seattle Seahawks within the preseason that linebacker Joe Thomas finally knocked out.

And Tillman, who joined the Pro Football Hall of Fame poll within the 2021 class however awaits potential entry, takes satisfaction in listening to “Peanut Punch” on NFL broadcasts, particularly when he’s watching along with his 13-year-old son.

“It’s actually kind of cool to hear,” Tillman mentioned. “It’s cool for my kids because (they) are like, ‘Oh, wow, they said your name, Dad.’ Because when I played my kids were young, so I don’t think they fully understood the life and everything.”

He tells gamers now the important thing to the punch is eye self-discipline.

“What are you looking at? A lot of times I see people walking in there and punching just to punch, and it doesn’t make sense,” Tillman mentioned. “If you and I were boxing and you’ve got your mitts over your face, I’m not going to keep punching there. I’m going to punch somewhere else where you’re not blocking. I’m trying to find that open area, and that’s really the key: You have to find that open area and know how to punch.”

With Hicks, Tillman talked about completely different exit angles for the ball relying on whether or not a deal with is being comprised of the facet or behind. He relayed the good thing about figuring out an opponent’s ball-security tendencies and whether or not that participant secures with one hand or two as he’s being taken down. And he talked about not being afraid to go after it.

“It’s also one of those things where you can’t be scared because you’re kind of vulnerable doing it,” Hicks mentioned. “But when you practice it so much, it just becomes second nature.”

And that’s the place the mindset Bears coaches are attempting to instill comes into play.

‘Thou who runneth to the ball …’

Tillman has the video pinned to the highest of his Twitter profile, a clip from a Sept. 24, 2006, game against the Minnesota Vikings that he thinks is “the true essence of that Lovie Smith defense.”

Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson threw a brief cross to Travis Taylor, who seemed to be one-on-one with Tillman. But inside a flash Ricky Manning got here in for a success. Lance Briggs did a Superman leap towards Taylor, “like he was off the top rope in the WWF,” Tillman mentioned. Tommie Harris rumbled in from behind. Tillman popped again up after getting knocked down. Danieal Manning helped end it off.

At one level there have been 9 Bears across the soccer.

Tillman nonetheless can recite the teaching mantras that created that sort of swarming play and likewise helped decrease the danger when a participant obtained too aggressive on a strip try.

Former defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Bob Babich instructed his gamers to “treat the ground like a hot stove.” If they fell, they wanted to leap up and get in on the play in case a teammate missed a deal with.

Marinelli instructed the gamers to “make daylight evaporate.”

“If we were playing Green Bay and you’re tackling a player, I better see a swarm of white or blue jerseys. I don’t want to see no green when that tackle comes,” Tillman mentioned. “That was the image that he instilled in us.”

As Bears gamers be taught the same calls for of Eberflus and Williams by means of their HITS precept, they’ve provide you with their very own cheeky saying, which they’re certain might be discovered someplace in Shakespeare’s work.

“Thou who runneth to the ball, good things shall happen,” cornerback Jaylon Johnson mentioned.

It’s a part of a relentless effort the brand new teaching employees calls for of gamers, fixed hustle and depth — and takeaway makes an attempt on each play.

“It’s all they talk about,” Hicks mentioned. “When we’re in film and we pass up a strip attempt, they’re on our head. Like, ‘You’re better than that. You know that’s not what we’re doing here. Get a strip attempt.’ That’s the standard, no matter who you are.”

Most coaches crave takeaways. Former Bears defensive coordinator Sean Desai had a takeaway bucket final coaching camp to encourage gamers, however the Bears compelled solely 16 turnovers in 2021, ranked twenty sixth within the NFL.

But Williams and Eberflus, who coached one of many subsequent nice Peanut Punchers in Colts linebacker Shaquille Leonard, suppose their coverage of not strolling by a missed strip or interception try — together with the concentrate on it in observe and movie classes — helps.

“Guys have an attitude of, ‘Hey, I’m going to strip the ball every chance I get,’” Williams mentioned. “And when the ball’s up within the air, it’s not simply, ‘Hey, I’m going to knock it down.’ It’s, ‘I’m going to intercept the soccer.’ When we’re tackling it’s, ‘Hey, we’re going to deal with the ball service and we’re going to be bodily, however we’re additionally going to punch the soccer.’

“If you have 10 chances and you’re going for the ball 10 times, the percentages are always better than if you don’t strip or if you try to knock the ball down all the time.”

Williams’ feedback had been in response to a query about how expertise versus mindset elements into forcing turnovers.

Because that’s the caveat in regards to the Bears returning to the times of being a takeaway machine.

The Bears defenses of the early 2000s had a wealth of expertise, beginning with Tillman, Briggs, Harris, Brian Urlacher, Mike Brown and later Julius Peppers. There is expertise on the 2022 Bears — equivalent to Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith — and Williams and the gamers have indicated they see their potential in another way than outdoors notion.

But there’s no query that as common supervisor Ryan Poles slowly builds the roster, there are additionally a number of younger and unproven gamers on the protection.

“You definitely have to have talent,” Tillman mentioned. “I don’t think you can go out there with some scrubs and win. We had a lot of talent. We had great coaching, and I think with great coaching, you had good students, us the players.”

And that’s the place the Bears at the least can start their quest to once more be a “Takeaway King,” as rookie security Jaquan Brisker’s shirt learn after a current observe.

On his go to with the Bears, Tillman instructed tales and talked soccer with Eberflus. He mentioned Marinelli “knew how to get every ounce of effort, sweat, blood, tears” out of his gamers.

Tillman was intrigued by what Eberflus needs to create in Chicago.

“To me that was like, ‘Oh, wow, he is a Marinelli disciple,’” Tillman mentioned. “He is aware of defensively with the intention to win this sport, we want the ball. It’s not about large hits, it’s about staying in your gaps, it’s about taking the ball away and it’s about 11 guys doing one factor, not one particular person doing 11 issues.

“He’s going to put his twist on it and make it his way. Time will tell. Like the rest of this city, I’m hoping he’s extremely successful in his first year.”

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