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Allen Park — Lions middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch last week explained how he's managed to never miss a game during his first nine NFL seasons.

Since his second year in the league, Tulloch said he regularly talked with former Washington linebacker London Fletcher, who retired this year after playing 256 consecutive games, fourth most in NFL history. Massages, chiropractic services, acupuncture, Pilates and yoga all became a part of Tulloch's expensive but necessary routine.

"There's no better ability than dependability," he said.

Now, after a fluke injury on a sack celebration in Sunday's 19-7 win over the Green Bay Packers, Tulloch won't be available for his team after leading all defensive players in the NFL with 131 straight games played.

Tulloch, 29 suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and will miss the rest of the 2014 season, Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Monday.

Tulloch suffered the injury celebrating a third-down sack of Aaron Rodgers in the first quarter of the Week 3 game. He jumped in the air, did Rodgers' championship belt celebration and landed awkwardly on his left leg.

Tulloch returned for the next defensive series, but was on the ground in pain after the first play. Lions players, trainers and Caldwell all rushed to Tulloch to see his status before he walked off the field on his own power.

After going to the locker room, Tulloch returned to the sideline in street clothes with a heavy bandage on his knee.

Caldwell said Tulloch will undergo surgery, and the team will place him on injured reserve.

After the game Sunday, Caldwell referred to Tulloch's injury as a fluke and said that he wants his players to be enthusiastic. He reasserted that point Monday, saying he won't try to "dampen the spirit" of his players after Tulloch's celebration-induced injury.

"This is an emotional game," he said. "This is a game where guys have to go through quite a bit in order to accomplish what they're trying to get. It's tough. Oftentimes you're trying to defeat two or three people to get something done.

"And when it does indeed happen, when a guy lays it on the line, gives everything he has, it's kind of an emotional reaction oftentimes, and it's tough to keep that under wraps."

The Lions, though, are starting to realize just how devastating injuries can be in the NFL. During the offseason, they lost second-round pick Kyle Van Noy to a core muscle injury, and he's on short-term injured reserve and can't return until at least Week 10.

In Week 1, offensive tackle Corey Hilliard (foot) and cornerback Bill Bentley (knee) suffered season-ending injuries. After Week 2, rookie cornerback Nevin Lawson (foot) joined them on injured reserve, and cornerback Cassius Vaughn (ankle) missed Week 3.

The Lions have also been without top strong safety James Ihedigbo the first three games because of a nerve injury in his neck suffered in the second exhibition game.

"The fact of the matter is that unfortunately that's just the way this game is," Caldwell said. "If you go into the season thinking it's not going to happen to you, you're kidding yourself."

Losing Tulloch — the captain of the defense in more ways than one since signing in 2011 — could hurt more than any of the other injuries even though the Lions overcame it on Sunday.

DeAndre Levy, who started his career as a middle linebacker, filled Tulloch's role doling out defensive calls Sunday, and he or Tahir Whitehead will replace Tulloch long term in the middle. Ashlee Palmer can fill Whitehead's role on the strong-side if Whitehead moves, but the Lions play the majority of their defensive snaps in nickel, which likely won't change.

"With how much energy he puts in and how much work he puts in, and to get hurt the way that he did, I know he's sick," said defensive end Jason Jones, who also spent three years with Tulloch in Tennesee. "Losing a middle linebacker like that, probably one of the best in the game, it's tough."

Caldwell did not know Monday when Tulloch would undergo surgery.

"Young guys have a tendency to heal quickly, so hopefully he'll have a great healing process and be ready to go for us in the future," he said.

Caldwell said Tulloch will remain around the team and help lead players, but based on what Tulloch said last week, that experience will be at least a little painful.

"I pride myself on being available every week," he said. "I take pride in being available, being there for my team, them being able to count on me. I want the team to know what they're going to get out of me week to week.

"I'm going to go full speed; I'm going to give everything I have. I might not be perfect all the time, but I'm going to give it everything I have."

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

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