Stephen Tulloch ready to go: 'I'm so motivated'

Posted Apr 23, 2015

If the Detroit Lions had a football game tomorrow, linebacker Stephen Tulloch is convinced he’d be able to play.

If the Detroit Lions had a football game tomorrow, linebacker Stephen Tulloch is convinced he’d be able to play, seven months after tearing the ACL in his left knee Sept. 21.

“To be honest with you, I feel great,” Tulloch told “If I had to play today I could definitely play -- a little over six and a half months, seven months in May (since surgery).

Stephen TullochLB Stephen Tulloch (Photo: Gavin Smith / Detroit Lions)

“I feel good. I feel blessed to have Dr. (James) Andrews work on me and put me back together. I have a good team of people down in Miami that take care of me. They’ve gotten me back to a point I can train with the team. I can lift weights and run around. It feels good to be back out there again.”

Whether or not Tulloch would be 100 percent ready to go by tomorrow is his doctor's decision, but he’s obviously way ahead of schedule and feeling great.

Tulloch suffered the injury while celebrating a sack of Aaron Rodgers in the Lions’ 19-7 win over Green Bay in Week 3 last year.

In that moment, Tulloch went from NFL Iron Man – a player who’d never missed a game in his first eight years in the league – to a player facing the prospects of rehabilitation from a major knee injury at the age of 30.

Having football taken away from him has instilled a new love and respect for the game that Tulloch says he’s never had before. And he’s looking forward to the 2015 season more than any of the previous nine before it.

“This year, for me, I’m so motivated,” Tulloch said. “I’m not saying I haven’t been (excited) before, but I’m more motivated than I ever have been.

“To miss a game, let alone the majority of the season, I haven’t done that since I was five years old. I have to go back to 1991, when I first started playing football, I’ve played football every game and every year my whole life.”

The time off did allow Tulloch to take a greater role in his foundation – The Stephen Tulloch Foundation– and it gave him time to get his “mind and body” right. But now it’s back to football, and that has Tulloch pretty excited.

“I realized how much I love football and missed playing and I embrace every moment now more than I ever have,” he said. “I’ve been in situations where I’ve taken it for granted because I never had to worry about injuries or getting hurt. I was an Iron Man. But it can be taken away from you just that like and I embrace it every day."

Tulloch said he’s appreciated the support the Lions organization has given him through this process. Both general manager Martin Mayhew and head coach Jim Caldwell have had unwavering support for Tulloch. Caldwell even went as far to tell reporters last month that Tulloch was his starting MIKE linebacker in 2015.

“The thing with Stephen is his grades were exceptional in all those games (in 2014 leading up to the injury) and I think he was still sort of adapting to our new defensive scheme at that time,” Mayhew said earlier this offseason. “I was happy with the way he played.” 

Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said at the Town Hall Meeting last month that he’s extremely happy to have Tulloch back and talked about what his return means for both the talent and depth the Lions now have at the linebacker position.

The team has four or five linebackers – Tulloch, DeAndre Levy, Tahir Whitehead, Kyle Van Noy and Josh Bynes – who could legitimately start in this league and they’re now vying for three starting spots in Detroit.

“They believed in me and for that I want to go out there and fulfill what they believed in and give my all week in and week out,” Tulloch said of the Lions' support.

One positive that came out of Tulloch’s injury was the way Tahir Whitehead stepped up and filled in at the MIKE spot. Whitehead wasn’t out of place at all in the middle, even though he'd never played the position at any level, and finished last season second on the team in tackles (86). He now has valuable starting experience as he slides over to the SAM spot this year.

Austin’s defense is built on stopping the run and Tulloch’s game is tailor-made to play in this scheme. He is excited for what 2015 will bring. He’s excited to be playing football again.