ALLEN PARK, Mich. — With the departure of Kyle Vanden Bosch, middle linebacker Stephen Tulloch is embracing an elevated leadership role on the Detroit Lions’ defense.
Tulloch, entering his eighth NFL season and third with the Lions, has been impressed during offseason workouts with the maturity and development of defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
Fairley’s career got off to a rocky start because of an injury his rookie year in 2011 and two arrests last offseason.
Tulloch sees a different mentality from Fairley these days.
He recently asked him, ‘Nick, you going to Hawaii this year?’”
The implication was that Fairley would make the Pro Bowl team in his third season in the league.
Fairley, who played on a national-championship team in college at Auburn, responded: “No, Tulloch, I’m going to New York.”
Super Bowl XLVIII, hosted by New York and New Jersey, will be played February 2 at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
“I’m not saying we’re going to the Super Bowl, I’m just saying that’s his mind frame,” Tulloch said of Fairley. “He’s a heck of a player. He’s a Pro Bowl, All-Pro kind of player. If he can just stay healthy and working the way he is, he’s going to be a force to be reckoned with.
“He’s slim. He’s focused and he’s about his business. He’s grown as a player. He’s put all that negative stuff behind him. He’s moving forward. That’s what you want to see.”
Tulloch, hoping the Lions can bounce back from a 4-12 season, plans to be there to help show Fairley and anyone else the way whenever it’s needed.
Vanden Bosch was the primary source of inspiration during his three years in Detroit but his production as a pass-rusher diminished last season at age 34, in his 12th NFL season.
The Lions released him in February, leaving a major void in leadership on the defense.
Tulloch plans to fill it.
“I want to be that guy,” he said. “I’ve been around this game a long time. I’ve always wanted to do that. Kyle was the guy I always looked up to. So I let him do his thing. It’s time for me to take that role on and lead by example off the field and on the field and put things together.
“I’m putting a lot of pressure on myself this year,” Tulloch added. “I love the game of football. I want everybody to have the same passion that I have for the game.
“It’s my responsibility as a veteran in this league and on this team to bring that leadership, let guys follow my lead. Anybody that’s slacking behind, pull their hand and bring them forward because we’re going to need them all.”