Cornerback Charles Tillman tweeted Thursday that his wife will deliver their child Monday, making him available to play for the Bears against the Texans on Sunday night.
The announcement came after he told a Chicago radio station that if his wife went into labor, he would miss the game to be at her side.
Earlier in the week, Tillman explained that when his second daughter, Tiana, was born, she had an enlarged heart and needed a transplant. That experienced changed him.
"This game is important to me, but after what we went through with my middle child Tiana, football is second," Tillman said. "It 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, they'll all still be there for me."
Many of Tillman’s teammates, coach Lovie Smith and fans have rallied around him. But Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk took a different tack, saying football players need to be available 16 games a year no matter the personal circumstances.
Coaches, particularly at the collegiate level, often talk about how football prepares players to be men. The game, they say, breeds the ideals of teamwork and responsibility that prepares them for life.
When you have your first child -- that’s life. When you are at your wife’s side, holding her hand for one of the most physically difficult experiences she can go through -- that’s teamwork. Making a point to be a father from the very first moment -- that’s taking responsibility.
One of the best things that have come from Tillman’s situation is that many people seem to get it. A lot of the comments on Florio’s column didn’t understand how he could shed a negative light on Tillman’s decision. And Florio has since recanted his original statement.
Tillman is the antidote for the tales of players like Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie, who has 10 children by eight women with twins on the way.
No employer should try to steal those first moments a man has with his newborn. Many NFL players try to plan arrivals for March, but any parent can tell you it’s an imperfect science at best.
So if the birth does happen on a Sunday, remember that football is just a game. Being a father is for life.