Craig: Tillman plays dad, then football

  • Article by: MARK CRAIG , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 10, 2012 - 5:06 PM

Bears cornerback Charles Tillman had his priorities straight putting the birth of his child before a Sunday on the field.

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Chicago Bears cornerback Charles Tillman

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Vikings defensive end Jared Allen finds it hard to believe that Bears cornerback Charles Tillman -- or anyone else, for that matter -- would have to defend himself from people who argue that an NFL player should choose playing in a game over attending the birth of his child.

"This game will never be more important than family," Allen said. "So I'm all for it. I think [Tillman is] a bigger man for putting his family before his job."

Tillman was the subject of national discussion and some ridicule this week when he initially told Chicago radio station WSCR-AM that he might not be available for Sunday's game against Houston because his wife, Jackie, might give birth. Tillman has since tweeted that he will play because, according to him, Jackie will give birth on Monday.

But what if that changes and the birth does come on Sunday? Tillman won't be there. First of all, he sounds like a father with appropriate priorities. Secondly, he also knows the dangers, having had a daughter, Tiana, who had to have a heart transplant to survive the first year of her life.

Tillman is having a defensive MVP- caliber season on a 7-1 team that's preparing to play another 7-1 team. So his situation stirred the question this week about where an NFL player's loyalties should lie during the season.

A survey of the Vikings locker room rejected the notion that a father's place is anywhere but in the delivery room.

Backup linebacker Tyrone McKenzie was faced with that possible decision last month. He and his wife were preparing to induce labor when the baby was born on Oct. 31, a Wednesday.

"If we had a 1 o'clock home game and the baby was born before 11 that day, I would be at the game," McKenzie said. "The baby is sleeping and my family understands. But if you're asking about the actual birth, then, no. As a father, you have to be at the birth of your child."

Vikings coach Leslie Frazier agrees wholeheartedly. McKenzie wasn't the only player he was faced with having to prepare to play without last month. He said Joe Berger, a key backup offensive lineman and special teamer, also came within days of having to miss a game.

"All of us who have kids, we know the importance of if Dad can be there, you want Dad there," Frazier said. "I know my wife appreciated me being there."

Allen's daughter was born 13 months ago during the week the Vikings were preparing to play at Carolina.

"I remember when we were going to have our daughter," Allen said. "I already told Coach, 'If I get a call in the third quarter, I'm walking off the field and leaving.' For me, there's nothing more important than family."

Allen said that will never change no matter how many children he has.

"We have great jobs," he said. "We get paid to play a phenomenal game. But football is not life or death. There will be another game. You never know when you're going to have another kid."

But what if the wife is due on Super Bowl Sunday and a certain purple-clad team is in the game?

"Before a Super Bowl?" Allen said. "We're inducing before the Super Bowl."

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