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Jennings steps up for Bears as Tillman goes down

Published: Monday, Sept. 10, 2012 10:17 a.m. CDT

CHICAGO (MCT) — The Colts opted not to re-sign Tim Jennings a few years back because they believed he had a chronic ankle problem. Sunday, a healthy Jennings was a recurring pain in the rear end for rookie quarterback Andrew Luck.

The Bears cornerback intercepted two of Luck’s passes and deflected a ball picked off by teammate Chris Conte during the Bears’ 41-21 victory. The Bears forced five turnovers.

“It was a good day,” Jennings said. “I was able to catch the ball. I dropped one in the end zone. ... I caught more than I dropped today. Last year I struggled with that.”

Jennings’ performance wasn’t the only storyline at cornerback. Fellow starter Charles Tillman injured his lower right leg on special teams in the first half, tried to play through it, then exited without returning. Coach Lovie Smith expressed hope the injury wasn’t serious.

Jennings had a conversation with Tillman.

“I was concerned, but I spoke with him and he said he was going to be fine, get some treatment on it,” Jennings said. “It’s nothing serious that we have to worry about. We’re just going to rest it (and Tillman will) take as much time as he needs.

“We know we have a big game coming up, but come Wednesday — if he feels like he can’t go — then it would be an issue for us. But right now, he says he feels fine and he’s going to try to give it a go.”

The quick turnaround to Thursday night’s game at Green Bay could tempt the Bears to let Tillman rest. Veteran Kelvin Hayden replaced Tillman on Sunday and performed well.

Hayden tied for the team lead with seven tackles, including a punishing hit to jar the ball loose from Colts receiver Donnie Avery. He also recovered a fumble forced by J.T. Thomas during a kickoff return.

Hayden started 47 games the last seven seasons with the Colts and Falcons.

He was asked about the possibility of starting Thursday.

“It’s nothing new to me,” he said.

Hayden never faced the Packers while with the Colts and had two pass deflections for the Falcons in last year’s loss to the Packers.

Jennings has faced the Packers five times the last two seasons and knows quarterback Aaron Rodgers will look for those quick slants — often.

“We’ve got to get a vibe for when they’re going to do that,” Jennings said. “Rodgers does them to both sides, so we have to be aggressive. Whether we press all day just to be able to take that away, then that’s what we’ll do. But we’ll figure it out.”

If the 6-foot-2 Tillman can’t go Thursday, the Bears would lose a little size with the 6-foot Hayden and 5-8 Jennings. But Jennings showed the ability to go up and make a big play when he leaped to intercept a second-quarter pass intended for the 5-11 Avery.

Was Sunday the best game of Jennings’ career?

“I don’t think it was,” Jennings said. “I have to go back and watch them. But it was a pretty good day for me.”

The Bears could use another good one from Jennings come Thursday.

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