By Ryan Baker-
(CBS) — It didn’t take Kyle Fuller long to show us that the new kid on the block isn’t the one to be messed with.
In his first ever training camp practice, the Bears first-round draft pick came up with a couple of interceptions. Later in Bourbonnais, his aggressive attempt to strip the ball away from Martellus Bennett set off the mercurial tight end and led to Bennett getting temporarily suspended. It also earned Fuller the respect of his teammates and coaches.
So it came as no surprise to anyone on the Bears sideline when Fuller stepped up Sunday night with a pair of crucial interceptions in Chicago’s impressive 28-20 victory in San Francisco. They’ve known for a while now that he’s got “it.”
Maybe that’s why the Bears gave Fuller No. 23, which carries a little bit of weight in this town. Not only did Fuller spark the comeback win over the 49ers, but he ignited the proverbial torch that was passed to him from Charles “Peanut” Tillman, albeit reluctantly.
Only a chosen few special athletes have the luxury of leaving professional sports on their own terms. The tears that flowed from Peanut’s weary eyes after he ruptured his right triceps Sunday night signified a decorated warrior coming to grips with the hard and bitter truth that it all might be over.
Football players like Peanut Tillman die hard. His valiant declaration that a second straight season-ending triceps injury “isn’t the end of the road for me” belies the reality for a beat-up, 33-year-old NFL cornerback. If his career, at least with the Bears, is truly over, he’s walking away with honor and distinction that not many have experienced in the history of one of the league’s most storied franchises.
For all of his team records (all-time leader in defensive touchdowns with nine and 675 interception return yards) and his trademark “Peanut Punch,” Tillman’s time on the field with the Bears is up.
It’s Kyle Fuller’s moment to shine now. The kid has shown us that he’s far from being the shell of Peanut.
Ryan Baker is CBS 2 Chicago’s lead sports anchor. You can follow him on Twitter @RyanBakerSports.