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Tillman brings punch to Panthers

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Two things became apparent about cornerback Charles Tillman as soon as his first training camp in Carolina began. One: He's still got that unique knack for forcing fumbles.

Two: He's a talker. It'd be a challenge to find any player more talkative on the field or on the sideline.

"I think communication is the key to having a successful defense," Tillman said. "If I see something, I'm making it well known. I'm talking to the corner across the field. I'm talking to my safeties. I'm talking to my linebackers."

He's even talking to offensive linemen. During stretching, Tillman was heard joking around with the hog mollies.

"I'm coming for you ponytail," Tillman said in the direction of guard Andrew Norwell, who smiled and carried on stretching.

Sometimes it's a joke. Other times it's a piece of advice or an explanation of coverages. Whatever the case may be, Tillman isn't ever shy about expressing himself.

"I don't want to be here if I'm keeping secrets," Tillman said. "I'm not here just to try to better myself. I'm here to try to help better this team. I'm just one-eleventh of our defense. Everybody on this team - offense, defense, special teams - we all have one common goal, and that's to win the Super Bowl.

"If me giving this guy a tip can help him make us better in a game, well hey, I did my part, and he did his part for listening. That made us better – the both of us. It made our whole team better."

And yes, the "Peanut Punch" is making the entire defense better. Tillman is teaching his method to the other defensive backs, and it's already paying off in practice.

"I think our DBs are starting to strip the ball," Tillman said. "Linebackers are starting to strip the ball more. We got a couple out a few days ago, so I think it's carrying on. It's not me. It's them doing it.

"They saw it and figured, 'Wow, it's that easy?' and then they tried it, and they're getting it out, too."

Tillman said he started punching the ball out of the opposition's grasp in college at Louisiana Lafayette. He called it "thinking outside the box."

"I don't possess that hard-hitting capability like Luke (Kuechly) or TD (Thomas Davis) or some of those guys," Tillman said. "I'm not really good at separating the man from the ball, so I just figure, why not punch it out? Just trying to do something different, something unconventional.

"I just punch. I feel like there's always an opportunity to knock the football out. For that split second, I just take my chance, take my shot."

When it comes to forcing fumbles, Tillman is the one doing the teaching. But as a first-year Panther, there are times when the veteran is learning from teammates like Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis to better understand the nuances of the Carolina defense.

As Tillman would say, communication makes all the difference.

"This is what training camp is for," Tillman said, "so we can develop that bond and chemistry and just mold and gel together quickly."

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