Fathers, mothers, and Chicago Bears fans can relax now.
Charles Tillman has tweeted he will play in Sunday's game, and that his wife will deliver their third child on Monday.
@mikeandmike god, family, football… Baby is coming Monday don’t worry I’ll be there Sunday.
— Charles Tillman (@peanuttillman) November 8, 2012
We're not sure how he can make such a guarantee. But Tillman's comments during a radio interview with a Chicago station became a hot topic in the sports world when he suggested Wednesday that the birth of his child would take precedent over showing up for his job. It sparked conversations on talk radio and in social media about work and family priorities.
“The wife is due any day, so hopefully this baby can stay in until after the game on Sunday,” Tillman said.. “but if she comes Sunday, I think I’m going to have to be at the hospital Sunday.”
Tillman said later the same day, in discussing his attendance at a previous birth, "[Football will] always be second or third in my life. That was a great lesson learned, to teach me that family — when I’m done playing football — my family will always be there for me.”
Tillman was the Bears' defensive player of the month in October, and the league leader in forced fumbles (seven). He also has two interceptions, and two touchdowns on the season. His presence would likely be missed in big game against the Houston Texans, who are 7-1.
"Every game is a big game, especially when you're winning like we are," Houston defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. "These are really important games for us. They can, boom, make your season," according to Fox News.
Tillman's announcement drew criticism from some sports columnists and fans. Sport radio talk show starkly framed the question: "If you only work 16 days a year, should you miss one for the birth of your child?"
That this is an open question at all, writes Mike Florio of NBC Sports, comes from the decisions that some football players in this situation have made.
"The fact that it’s even a question possibly flows from the “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” mentality that caused former Oilers offensive line coach Bob Young to proclaim in 1993 that, by attending the birth of his child, tackle David Williams “let the guys down, and he let hundreds of thousands of fans down.”
But Tillman drew wide support for his position from his coach, teammates, and many fans.
“It’s family first,” Bears Coach Lovie Smith told The Chicago Sun Times. “If there is something you feel like you need to do for your family always do that. How we look at it is like an injury. If a player can’t go, it’s next guy up. We’ll keep going.”
“It’s take care of your family. We understand how things are run around here,” Bears receiver Brandon Marshall told the Sun Times. “This is a special group. Coach Smith is a special guy, definitely in how he runs things, and … you take on the character of your leader. That’s what he preaches — family comes first.”