Titans lose LBs Bulluck, Thornton for season

Monday, December 21, 2009 at 4:54pm

Tennessee Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck suffered a torn ACL in his left knee, ending his season and quite possibly his career with the team.

Bulluck, who had started 127 consecutive games at outside linebacker, suffered the injury when his left knee buckled on a running play in the third quarter of Sunday's 27-24 overtime victory over the Miami Dolphins. Bulluck is a free agent at season's end and the Titans have not made any overtures toward extending the 10-year veteran's deal.

Bulluck isn't the only Titan going under the knife either, as fellow linebacker David Thornton will have surgery either Wednesday or Thursday to repair a pectoral muscle.

“Keith has kind of been a cornerstone of our defense. He’s been there for so many years,” Titans coach Jeff Fisher said Monday. “You can speak about the number of starts and the production. He’s gone from being AFC Defensive Player of the Week [last week vs. St. Louis]to obviously now being out for the season. It’s a blow, but we’ll plug people in and we’ll go on. That’s all we can do.”

In for Bulluck and Thornton are Gerald McRath, who has made three starts in Thornton’s place including Sunday against Miami, and Colin Allred, who has been mostly a special teams player in his three seasons in Tennessee.

“They’re both devastating losses to our defense. David was playing very well this year when he was able to play,” Fisher said. “I was pleased with the production from Gerald specifically, and also how Colin came in off the bench and got lined up and made plays.”

To help fill the gap, the team late Monday signed former Vanderbilt linebacker Jamie Winborn to a two-year contract.

"I'm super excited to be on a football team again," said the 30-year-old Winborn. "I know a lot of guys on this team already and I'm happy to be on the team."

Winborn has played for six NFL teams since being drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in 2001. He briefly was on the Houston Texans roster before being waived in October.

As for Bulluck’s future, Fisher said it is far too early to speculate what might happen to the veteran linebacker whose contract is up in March with no new negotiations on an extension having taken place yet.

“I don’t think I’m ready to discuss his future here, his contract, how it affects things. Those are things that will get worked out I think,” Fisher said. “I think the thing we’ll address here at the moment is the loss and what he’s done for us up to this point and also emphasize that when you lose a player in the starting lineup, younger players have to step up and play, and that’s what we’re expecting to have happen.”

Bulluck said via his Twitter account feed on Monday that he doesn’t want his career to end with the injury. His message said, “y'’all heard the news torn ACL...after 127 str8 games u already kno I ain't go'n out like this. My spirits r gr8 thx 4 the luv.”

Event though the Titans will turn to McRath and Allred beginning with a short week against the Chargers, roster moves are needed just to replenish the depth at linebacker. Mike Rivera, who has been on the practice squad all season, is an option. Also, former Titan Josh Stamer, who was let go in final cuts, is available after being waived by the Cleveland Browns last month.

The Titans defense struggled after Bulluck left, giving up 18 unanswered points to the Dolphins before pulling out the victory in overtime. Christmas night against the San Diego Chargers, who have won nine in a row, is an even bigger challenge for the suddenly depleted Titans. San Diego’s high-powered offense features quarterback Philip Rivers, tight end Antonio Gates and running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles.

On a short week against a powerful offense, the learning curve is steep for the linebackers, who will now be fronted by fourth-year man Stephen Tulloch, who inherits the defensive signal calling and nickel and dime packages from Bulluck.

“We’re gonna expect them to know the defense,” Fisher said. “Our opponent is quite capable of scoring touchdowns and throwing the ball through the air, so we’re gonna have to do things to give us the best chance of stopping them. We can’t simplify things and have a chance to win.”

6 Comments on this post:

By: TITAN1 on 12/21/09 at 3:59

Get well, guys! Thanks for all your hard work!

By: rednecktitanfan on 12/21/09 at 4:42

yall have showed alot of toughness this year after the 0-6 start and im proud of yall. get well bullock....kinda be ashame if he doesnt come back after starting 128 games in a row but the game is a big business....im looking forward to a great year next season with young as qb....get that defense strengthed up during the offseason though titans cause thats our trademark and defenses win super bowls....

By: licnstic on 12/21/09 at 9:37

OH BOOHOOO!!!!! We lost our LBs yadda yadda yadda so forth and so on WHATEVER!!! We all know that the titans STINKKK!!! They will be sumwhat of an ok team once fisher is gone.. Be honest how many seasons have u watched the titans barely win games. Everytime they get almost close to the redzone they settle for field goals. The colts,vikings,steelers, eagles, chargers and lest i forget the patriots, are all used to going down the field and putting up 7. a team cant win a championship just relying on field goals and hell marys. thats your tennessee titans football. a wing and a prayer. They get rid of fisher, and maybe, just maybe by 2020 theyll make it to the playoffs and get past the first round. anything could happen, but in the mean time.... THEY ARE A BUNCH OF OVER PAID LOSERS COACHED BY AN EVEN BIGGER LOSER THAT WISHES HE WERE A COLTS COACH. EVEN THEN HE SCREW THAT TEAM UP AND THEY ARE TRULY A CHAMPIONSHIP CALIBUR TEAM. 2 WORDS THEY STINK!!!

By: frank brown on 12/22/09 at 7:51

TITAN1, I think the loss of Bullock & Thornton just about guarantee an 8 and 8 season or even a 7 and 9 season. These two guys are GOOD football players and will be missed greatly.

By: TitansKickAs on 12/22/09 at 8:08

Keith, you are the man! Hope you rehab well and are better than ever.
The Titans would be making a HUGE mistake if they don't bring you back if you can play. You are the heart and soul of that defense and have been for your career. Same for David, though he's not been here as long.
But Keith, we'll miss you as we finish up the year. I'll be looking for you on the sidelines cheering the guys on. I know you'll be there!

By: royt5 on 12/22/09 at 9:21

Keith, I hope this isn't where all the great memories of you end. You are the heart of this team, in my opinion. You're been there for just about every snap of the ball for years. You're always willing to take as long as it takes when your fans want autographs. You're just an all around good fella. I hope and pray that this doesn't end your football career, whether you're with the Titans or some place else. You will always be one of my favorites. God Bless You.