Lions cut Stephen Tulloch after ankle surgery

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Stephen Tulloch

Five months after the Lions told Stephen Tulloch he wasn’t in their plans for 2016, the team finally released him on Tuesday.

Both general manager Bob Quinn and coach Jim Caldwell have repeatedly refused to provide any explanation for why the Lions retained Tulloch instead of giving him ample time to find a new job, but he’ll finally have that chance.

As it turns out, Tulloch wasn’t healthy and thus couldn’t be released without an injury settlement. He underwent arthroscopic ankle surgery earlier this offseason and finally passed a physical Tuesday, which allowed the Lions to cut him without penalty.

Tulloch, 31, led the Lions in tackles in 2015 with 107, but he wasn’t the same every-down player as he was in his first few seasons with the Lions. He suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee in Week 3 of 2014, forcing him to miss the rest of the season, and he struggled in coverage upon his 2015 return as coaches regularly removed him on third downs.

Tulloch was promoting his children’s book, “The Little Linebacker,” last month and said he was anxious for a resolution.

“It’s been a long journey,” said Tulloch, 31, who had one year left on his contract at $5.5 million. “I was told back in February the team wanted to kind of go in a younger direction, which is understandable. We had some things to work out in between and that’s why things haven’t unfolded.

“Hopefully we can resolve things in the next couple of days and hopefully get things under wrap.”

The Lions signed Tulloch in 2011, reuniting him with coach Jim Schwartz who was his defensive coordinator with the Tennessee Titans. In four of his five seasons with the Lions, Tulloch had at least 100 tackles and started all 16 games.

"As I have said numerous times since I became head coach of the Lions, Stephen Tulloch has been a consummate professional on and off the field,” coach Jim Caldwell said in a statement Tuesday. "We thank him for his contributions to the Lions and the Detroit community and wish him the very best in all his future endeavors."

Tulloch said last month he expects to play somewhere in 2016.

jkatzenstein@detroitnews.com

Twitter @jkatzenstein