O'HARA: Tulloch may benefit from short 2014 season

Posted Aug 11, 2015

Taking a season off because of injury is not No. 1 on the list of ways to extend a player’s career, but linebacker Stephen Tulloch might benefit from not taking the pounding of a full season.

Stephen Tulloch was out of sight for 13 weeks last year to those whose focus is strictly on the field during Lions games, but he wasn’t out of mind – and definitely not out of earshot of his teammates.

Tulloch is a leader on the Lions’ defense and responsible for making the calls as the starting middle linebacker. He did not give up his leadership role when he rejoined the team to begin the rehabilitation process after going out for the season with a knee injury in the third game.

Stephen TullochLB Stephen Tulloch (Photo: Detroit Lions)

There was a new voice on the field when Tahir Whitehead took over Tulloch’s position at middle linebacker, but Tulloch’s was as loud as ever on the sidelines.

“I didn’t go anywhere,” Tulloch said. “They heard another voice for about three games, while I was getting out of Pensacola (where he had surgery). When I came back to the sidelines, they heard my voice.

“I’m back.”

He’s back, and in a strange way might benefit from missing most of last season – the same way many are predicting that Vikings star running back Adrian Peterson will have fresh legs from being off for all but the opening game of last season.

For the present, Tulloch has looked as good as ever in training camp in reclaiming his starting job. Whitehead improved his stock with his performance in place of Tulloch and has moved to the strong side.

Tulloch did not take it for granted that he would step into his starting job without doing the necessary work.

“Tully’s a leader for us, a big-time player for us,” said Pro Bowl safety Glover Quin. “He’s been around a long time for us. He’s not expecting us to give him anything.

“He’s going to be fresh, and I’m pretty sure he’s got some stored-up energy and is ready go to.”

Before he got hurt last year, Tulloch was having another productive season with his regular workload. He played every defensive snap in the first two games and the first 11 of the Game 3 victory over the Packers before sustaining the knee injury.

Tulloch was hurt on a freakish play. He jumped up to celebrate sacking Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. His left knee buckled when he landed. He underwent surgery and missed the rest of the season.

Tulloch, who turned 30 on Jan. 1, said he had no doubt that he’d be able to return to play at a high level in his 10th pro season, and he feels that he has proven that in training camp.

“I’m back to me being me,” he said. “I’m able to run around and make plays. I train so hard in the offseason. I love the game. I train, I train, I train. I know I’m back to where I need to be at.”

Taking a season off because of injury is not No. 1 on the list of ways to extend a player’s career, but Peterson and Tulloch might benefit from not taking the pounding of a full season .

Peterson, who turned 30 in March, is one of the most violent runners in the league. He does not run away from contact. He played only the opening game last year and had only 21 carries, compared to 279 in 14 games in 2013 and 348 in 16 games in 2012 when he rushed for a career-high 2,097 yards.

Tulloch’s recovery time last offseason to let his body heal was considerably shorter than in previous seasons.

“This the first time I ever actually sat out the majority of the season” he said. “I feel fresh. I have no wear and tear, other than the fact I had surgery. I feel good. More important, I feel good for these guys, that I’ll be able to help my team win some games.”