Linebacker Stephen Tulloch is second in tackles for the Lions with 46, one for loss. With his knee finally not hurting, he's also had two sacks and an interception. (Daniel Mears / Detroit News)
Allen Park — Everything’s coming up roses for Stephen Tulloch these days.
The Lions middle linebacker is healthy after putting his knee tendinitis behind him during the offseason.
A week ago, he hosted an event to honor local women who have been affected by breast cancer, and he’s recently participated in other events to interact with sick children, something Tulloch sees as a privilege given his status.
And his Lions are 4-2.
“I’m like a kid in a candy store,” Tulloch said. “I wake up every day happy. I’ve got no problems.”
While fellow linebacker DeAndre Levy has stolen some of the spotlight, Tulloch has had a solid start to the 2013 season with 46 tackles, one for loss, two sacks and an interception.
Tulloch put up nice stats for the Lions last season with team highs in tackles (112) and fumble recoveries (two), but he never felt like himself with the pesky tendinitis. He played 16 games, but with “a lot of pain,” because he prides himself on being available. He’s played in every game since being drafted in 2006.
“Last year was tough, I ain’t going to lie to you,” he said. “I didn’t have that burst, and as a linebacker you’ve got to have that quickness to get lateral, side to side, and I didn’t have that last year. So I’m glad that’s behind me now.”
Tulloch wouldn’t reveal the remedy, but he tackled the knee problem and feels like he has his body back.
“I got it better, and that’s behind me now and I can just play football,” he said.
Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said Tulloch and Levy are really close friends and constantly study film together, and Levy said his improved play, which includes a league-leading four interceptions and team-high 44 tackles, has partly been due to being in his third season next to Tulloch.
“It’s good to kind of build that cohesion with a guy,” Levy said.
The duo’s approach has rubbed off on the team’s other linebackers, too, Cunningham said, and health has been a key reason for Tulloch’s upbeat attitude and improved play.
“I don’t think people realize how beat up he was,” Cunningham said. “I would watch him practice in this indoor facility … and you could see how much pain he was in, last year in particular, and the frustration level he had. He is a different guy this year.”
Tulloch’s leadership, though, hasn’t changed. Several players lauded his halftime speech during Sunday’s win over the Browns that helped inspire a 24-0 second half.
“To be honest with you, I love the game of football,” Tulloch said. “This is my passion. Yes I get paid to do what I do, but I think about it, I sleep on it, this is what I do.
“I just felt like we have a good team and we weren’t playing worth anything in the first half. We can’t let games like that slip by us.”
Rest assured, Tulloch is focused on Sunday’s game against the Bengals, but he does have some long-term goals.
After their Week 3 game in Washington, Tulloch exchanged jerseys with Redskins linebacker London Fletcher. A 16-year veteran, Fletcher has never missed a game in his career, and because he’s also a shorter linebacker, Tulloch has followed him since Fletcher played in college at John Carroll, a Division III program.
Tulloch said he and Fletcher talk once a month, and Tulloch asks for advice about how to take care of his body.
“We’ll see if I can catch him. If I can get to 16, 17 years, I’ll be good,” Tulloch said. “One year at a time.”