The news caught Tulloch by surprise when he was told after practice Wednesday about the news involving his friend, offseason workout partner and teammate.
Tulloch responded with a one-syllable groan – “Accchhh” – and a grimace. In this case, a groan and a grimace were worth a thousand words.
Not having the leader of the secondary, whose value can be documented by statistics, is bad news for a unit that needs good news.
“It’s tough, man,” said Tulloch, the general of the defense at middle linebacker. “He’s a heck of a player. He’s definitely a fierce competitor on the back end.”
Tulloch could joke a little about communicating with his excitable teammate on the field.
”He says a lot we might not understand,” Tulloch said. “But when he gets out there, he plays ball. He closes on the ball like a good friend of mine, Sean Taylor. When he sees, he goes.”
The reference to Taylor is high praise for any player – and testimony to Delmas’ value. Taylor is the former Washington Redskins safety who was shot to death in a home invasion in 2007.
Tulloch and Taylor grew up in the same neighborhood in Miami. At the time of his death, Taylor was gaining recognition as one of the NFL’s top defensive players at any position, not just safety.
Delmas missed the last five regular-season games last year with a knee injury, and the defense had a steep decline without him. Defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham has said that not having Delmas played a role in the decline.
The stats, based on the first 11 games with Delmas and the last five without him, speak for themselves. They are as follows:
|First 11||Last 5||Diff.|
Delmas returned at about 70-percent capacity for the loss to New Orleans in the wild-card playoff round. The defense was shredded for 626 yards in a 45-28 loss.
Running back and the secondary were the key areas of concern when the training camp opened, and that hasn’t changed.
Running back is still marking time with no indication of when
The secondary has taken a step back, at least for now, because of the injury to Delmas. Dr. James Andrews performed surgery on Delmas on Tuesday, according to a statement released by the Lions. The statement did not reference which knee was operated on, but it is known that Delmas was having trouble with his left knee in training camp.
Coach Jim Schwartz did not put a timetable on when Delmas will return, except to say he is “week-to-week.” Delmas had experienced soreness in the knee, and when it persisted, surgery was recommended.
“The reason he ended up getting it done was an effort to get back on the field,” Schwartz said. “We just weren’t getting anywhere with it.”
The secondary has taken two significant hits in the last month.
Cornerback Aaron Berry was released on July 23 after his second arrest in his hometown of Harrisburg, Pa. Berry practiced with the No. 1 unit throughout the offseason.
Not having Delmas for any length of time would be an even bigger loss.
“We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve played a lot of football,” Schwartz said. “We’ve got some quality guys back there.”
But Delmas is a cut above the rest when he’s healthy. That was proven when the defense played without him last year.
“It was noticeable,” Tulloch said. “He’s definitely a guy who carried that back end. Lou’s a heck of a player. I enjoy watching him play and fly around. I love the guy’s attitude. “You can’t replace that. He’s a one of a kind person, one of a kind player.”