In the scheme of things, these pre-draft comments by the Chicago Tribune's Dan Pompei were somewhere between innocuous and obvious. In talking about the Bears' cornerback situation, Pompei wrote on April 17 that, "The Bears don't have an immediate need as they have several young corners with potential in Zack Bowman, D.J. Moore and Joshua Moore. But no team ever has enough, and Charles Tillman, the Bears' best, is 30. Now might be the time to draft his successor. General manager Jerry Angelo likes to take corners in the middle rounds."
Reasonable enough, except that sometimes players find motivation in places that most of us wouldn't think to look. Like, say, Bears cornerback Charles Tillman who admitted in a recent radio interview to saving an article Pompei once wrote (presumably the one quoted above).
"I feel like that was a call out," Tillman said, according to Pompei. "I think everyone should get motivated when someone calls them out. That's why we play this game. We're competitive. When someone says I can't do something or I'm too old to do something, it fires me up. I think it's a good thing. Well let me show you how old I am. I like motivation. It fuels you. It gives you something to work for."
Part of me understands where Tillman is coming from. Proving others wrong can drive you to work harder. But assuming Tillman was bothered by Pompei's "You're 30" observation and not something more sinister, then it's not so much motivational retribution but the manufactured "me vs. them" pep talk that Bill Belichick made famous in recent years.
Pompei seems to understand as much. "I can count on one hand the number of athletes I've known who actually understood they were losing something as they aged. Denial probably is a vital aspect of confidence." And let's be honest: nobody -- not even in the Patriots locker room -- thought they were underdogs, but the "let's prove everybody wrong!" tactic worked out pretty well for them. Maybe Tillman's onto something.