Lions lose LB Tulloch for season to ACL injury

Detroit Lions middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch (55) celebrates his sack of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers (12) during the first half of an NFL football game in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014. Tulloch injured his left knee celebrating. (AP
Rick Osentoski

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) The Detroit Lions, riding high after stuffing Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay in a 19-7 win, got a dose of bad news Monday.

Middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL he suffered while celebrating a sack of the Packers' star quarterback.

''Tully did indeed injure his knee and is going to need surgery,'' coach Jim Caldwell said. ''I haven't had a chance to discuss it with him in detail, but obviously he's been disappointed. He's a fighter, so expect him to rehab like he always does everything else - full go and he'll get back soon.''

The Lions held the Packers to 223 total yards on Sunday. Tulloch suffered the injury in the first quarter, looking as though he was trying to mimic Rodgers' famous ''title belt'' celebration and then falling awkwardly to the ground. He returned soon after but was unable to continue playing, spending the remainder of the game on the sidelines.

Caldwell would not speculate on exactly how the injury occurred, instead pointing to the fickle nature of the game.

''The obvious was everybody saw him go up and come down and get up limping afterward,'' Caldwell said. ''But often times, some of these injuries, things happen a couple plays before but maybe at a certain point in time it may be affected a little bit more than others and come to the forefront. So I'm not absolutely sure.''

Caldwell said he won't ask his players - or coaches - to relax on the celebrations.

''Often times you're trying to defeat 2-3 people to get something, and when it does indeed happen, a guy lays it on the line, gives everything he has, it's kind of an emotional reaction, '' he said. ''We want enthusiasm, we want our coaches to be excited about it, we want our players to be excited about it.''

Caldwell would not speculate on who will replace Tulloch, though on Sunday linebacker DeAndre Levy finished the game in Tulloch's absence, and Tahir Whitehead was slotted into Levy's spot.

''To the team in general it's a great loss because (Tulloch) is the leader of the defense,'' Whitehead said. ''Personally I consider Tully a brother to me, and when I heard the news I was really hurt because I was praying that it wasn't as serious as they were saying initially. And then I came in today and it was just heartbreaking.''

Veteran center Dominic Raiola said he believes Whitehead - who had never played middle linebacker until this past offseason - will be fine.

''(Whitehead) has prepared himself to play,'' Raiola said. ''He made a lot of plays in the preseason - he stepped in (Sunday) and made plays. Obviously losing Tully, that hurts. But like Coach Caldwell preaches - and this is not just lip sync, we're seeing it now in action - it's next man up. That's not taking anything away from Tully, but it's a matter-of-fact that he's hurt. We mourn for him, but at the same time nobody's going to wait for us.''

Detroit will use the remainder of this week to evaluate its options and make a decision from there. The Lions (2-1) visit the Jets (1-1) this Sunday.

''I think you saw from the number of guys that were playing in roles that they had not been playing previously due to injury, guys step up and do the job that they're expected to do. Whomever we put into that spot, the same thing will be expected from them as well. And I think you'll see them step forward and play well.''

The Lions also said they had released rookie kicker Nate Freese and will sign former Eagles kicker Alex Henery to replace him. Freese missed a 41-yard field goal Sunday and was just 3 for 7 on the year.

''Obviously performance counts in this league, and that's no matter who you are, no matter what position you play, no matter what you do,'' Caldwell said. ''Everybody is evaluated and we're expected to perform accordingly.''

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