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Tahir Whitehead
Whitehead with the Lions in 2014
No. 59     
Outside linebacker
Personal information
Date of birth: (1990-04-02) April 2, 1990 (age 30)
Place of birth: Jersey City, New Jersey
Career information
College: Temple
NFL Draft: 2012 / Round: 5 / Pick: 138
No regular season or postseason appearances
Career history
*Detroit Lions ( 2012 2017)
Roster status: Active
Career highlights and awards
Career NFL statistics as of 2018
Total tackles     524
Sacks     3.0
Forced fumbles     5
Fumble recoveries     5
Interceptions     5

Tahir Ali Whitehead (born April 2, 1990) is an American football linebacker for the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football for Temple University. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the fifth round of the 2012 NFL Draft.

Early yearsEdit

A native of Newark, New Jersey, Whitehead played high school football at West Side High School, where he was part of the team that won the 2007 state sectional championship.[1]

College careerEdit

Whitehead played four years for Temple from 2008 through 2011. After primarily playing on special teams as a freshman and sophomore, Whitehead carved out a starting role in the 2010 season and finished sixth on an 8–4 Temple team with 56 tackles, including 7.5 tackles for a loss.[2] As a senior in 2011, Whitehead had 70 tackles, five sacks, and 13.5 tackles-for-loss for a Temple team that went 9–4 and won a bowl game for the first time since 1979. Whitehead was named a Second Team All-MAC selection following the season.[3]

Professional careerEdit

Whitehead attended the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana and completed all of the combine drills. On March 16, 2012, he attended Temple's pro day and opted to run all of the combine drills for the scouts and team representatives. He posted faster times in the short shuttle, 40-yard dash, 20-yard dash, and three-cone drill. At the conclusion of the pre-draft process, Whitehead was projected to be a sixth- or seventh-round pick. He was ranked as the 21st-best outside linebacker prospect in the draft by[4]

Pre-draft measureables
Ht WtArm lengthHand size 40-yd dash 10-yd split 20-yd split 20-ss 3-cone Vert Broad BP
6 ft 1 in 233 lb32⅜ in10¼ in 4.70 s 1.63 s 2.65 s 4.37 s 7.14 s 37 in 10 ft 4 in 21 reps

Detroit LionsEdit

The Detroit Lions selected Whitehead in the fifth round (138th overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft. The Lions traded their seventh-round pick (219th overall) in the 2012 NFL Draft and their fourth-round pick (102nd overall) in the 2013 NFL Draft to the Minnesota Vikings for their fifth-round pick (138th overall) and seventh-round pick (223rd overall) in 2012.[5] Whitehead was the 18th linebacker selected in 2012 and was one of three Temple players, joining Bernard Pierce and Evan Rodriguez.


On March 10, 2012, the Detroit Lions signed Whitehead to a four-year, $2.31 million contract that included a signing bonus of $212,000.[6]

Throughout training camp, Whitehead competed for the backup linebacker role against Doug Hogue.[7] Head coach Jim Schwartz named Whitehead the backup outside linebacker behind Justin Durant, DeAndre Levy, and Doug Hogue to start the regular season.[8]

On September 16, 2012, Whitehead made his professional regular season debut and made one solo tackle and a forced fumble during a 27–19 loss at the San Francisco 49ers. His first career tackle and forced fumble came as he was covering a kick return and tackled Kendall Hunter. He caused a Hunter to fumble and the ball was recovered by Kassim Osgood in the first quarter.[9] In Week 10, he made a season-high two solo tackles in a 34–24 loss at the Minnesota Vikings. He appeared mainly on special teams during his rookie season and finished with a total of 11 combined tackles (eight solo) and a forced fumble in 14 games and zero starts.[10] Head coach Jim Schwartz was fired after the Lions finished with a 7–9 record.


Whitehead returned to training camp in 2013 and competed against Ashlee Palmer, Travis Lewis, and Rocky McIntosh for the starting outside linebacker role that was left vacant after the departure of Justin Durant to the Dallas Cowboys in free agency.[11][12] Head coach Jim Shwartz named him the backup to Ashlee Palmer and DeAndre Levy to start the regular season.[13]

He played in the Detroit Lions' season-opener and assisted on one tackle in their 34-24 victory over the Minnesota Vikings. On September 29, 2013, he recorded a season-high two solo tackled during a 40-32 victory over the Chicago Bears. He finished the 2013 season with nine combined tackles (seven solo) in 16 games and appeared solely on special teams. Whitehead didn't play a single snap on defense in his first two seasons.[14]


Throughout training camp, Whitehead competed for the job as the outside linebacker against Kyle Van Noy and Ashlee Palmer.[15] New head coach Jim Caldwell named Whitehead the starting strongside linebacker to start the 2014 regular season.[16]

He earned his first career start in the Detroit Lions' season-opener against the New York Giants and made one solo tackle in the 35–14 victory. On September 28, 2014, Whitehead earned his first start at middle linebacker after Stephen Tulloch tore his ACL while celebrating a sack the previous week.[17] He recorded a season-high 12 combined tackles in the Lions' 24–17 win at the New York Jets and remained the starting middle linebacker for the rest of the season. On October 12, 2014, Whitehead made seven combined tackles, deflected two passes, and made two interceptions off of Minnesota Vikings' quarterback Teddy Bridgewater as the Lions won, 17–3. It marked his first career interception. In Week 15, he made ten combined tackles in a 16–14 victory at the Minnesota Vikings. Whitehead finished the 2014 season with 86 combined tackles (63 solo), two interceptions and five pass deflections in 16 games and 15 starts.[18][19]

The Detroit Lions finished second in the NFC North with an 11–5 record and received a playoff berth. On January 4, 2015, Whitehead started his first career playoff game and made six combined tackles and made his first career sack on quarterback Tony Romo in the Lions' 24–20 loss in the NFC Wildcard game at the Dallas Cowboys. Whitehead was ranked the 14th-best inside linebacker by Pro Football Focus for 2014.[20]


Whitehead competed with Stephen Tulloch for the starting middle linebacker role after he was impressive while replacing him in 2014. Head coach Jim Caldwell named Whitehead the backup middle linebacker behind Tulloch, with Travis Lewis and DeAndre Levy as the starting outside linebackers.[21][22]

On September 20, 2015, he made four combined tackles in the Lions' 26–16 victory against the Minnesota Vikings. In Week 10, Whitehead made his first start of the season, replacing Travis Lewis at outside linebacker, and recorded eight combined tackles, deflected a pass, and sacked Aaron Rodgers during an 18–16 victory at the Green Bay Packers. On January 3, 2015, he collected six combined tackles, deflected a pass, made a sack, and intercepted a pass attempt by Chicago Bears' quarterback Jay Cutler in the Lions' 24–20 victory.[23] Whitehead finished with 50 combined tackles (39 solo), a career-high two sacks, one interception, one fumble recovery, and a career-high six pass defenses. He played in 16 games and started the last eight at outside linebacker.[24]


On March 10, 2016, the Detroit Lions signed Whitehead to a two-year, $8 million contract that includes $4.75 million guaranteed and a signing bonus of $3 million.[6][25][26]

Whitehead entered training camp slated as the starting middle linebacker after Stephen Tulloch departed during the offseason.[27]

He started the Detroit Lions' season-opener at the Indianapolis Colts and made ten combined tackles and two pass deflections in their 39–35 victory. On October 9, 2016, Whitehead recorded a season-high 12 combined tackles and defended two passes during a 24–23 win against the Philadelphia Eagles. In Week 12, he collected 12 combined tackles for the fourth time in 2016 during the Lions' 22–16 win at the Minnesota Vikings. Whitehead missed the Lions' Week 13 victory at the New Orleans Saints after suffering a knee injury.[28] Whitehead had a breakout 2016 season and finished with a career-high 132 combined tackles (99 solo) and five pass deflections in 15 games and 15 starts.[29] His 132 tackles ranked ninth in the NFL in 2016.[30]


Whitehead started the 2017 season at weakside linebacker after the Detroit Lions drafted Jarrad Davis is the first round (21st overall) of the 2017 NFL Draft and anointed him starting middle linebacker.[31]

On September 18, 2017, Whitehead recorded eight combined tackles, a pass deflection, and an interception on Eli Manning as the Lions defeated the New York Giants 24-10 on Monday Night Football. The interception set up the Lions' offense on an eventual touchdown scoring drive.[32] On November 23, 2017, he collected a season-high 13 combined tackles in a 30-23 loss to the Minnesota Vikings. In Week 9, Whitehead recorded five solo tackle and a sack during a 30-17 win at the Green Bay Packers. He finished the 2017 season with 120 combined tackles (78 solo), two pass deflections, a sack, and an interception in 16 games and 16 starts. The Detroit Lions finished second in the NFC North with a 9-7 record and head coach Jim Caldwell was fired at the end of the season.

Oakland RaidersEdit

On March 15, 2018, the Oakland Raiders signed Whitehead to a three-year, $19 million contract that includes $6.27 million guaranteed.[6][33]

Personal lifeEdit

Whitehead is the nephew of former NFL defensive end Willie Whitehead. Whitehead is married and has three sons.[30]


  1. Stanmyre, Matthew (April 28, 2012). "NFL Draft 2012: Detroit Lions select Newark native Tahir Whitehead in fifth round". The Star-Ledger. "They informed Whitehead, a 2008 graduate of Newark’s West Side High School, they had selected him with their fifth-round pick — the 138th overall — of the 2012 NFL draft."
  2. "Temple University Athletics".
  3. "Ten Temple Owls Named to All-MAC Teams - Temple University". November 30, 2011.
  4. "Tahir Whitehead, DS #21 OLB, Temple".
  5. Sean Yuille (April 28, 2012). "2012 NFL Draft Results: Lions Trade Up, Select Tahir Whitehead".
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 " Tahir Whitehead contract".
  7. Tony Ortiz (June 19, 2012). "Five Detroit Lions Storylines For Training Camp".[dead link]
  8. Sean Yuille (September 5, 2012). "Lions Depth Chart For Week 1 Released".
  9. "NFL Game Center: Week 2-2012: Detroit Lions @ San Francisco 49ers".
  10. "NFL Player stats: Tahir Whitehead (2012)".
  11. J. P. Starkey (March 26, 2013). "Lions depth chart: Ashlee Palmer, Tahir Whitehead, Travis Lewis in competition to start for Detroit".
  12. Sean Yuille (July 18, 2013). "Did the Lions improve? LB Edition".
  13. Sean Yuille (September 3, 2013). "Lions depth chart released for Week 1 of season".
  14. "NFL Player stats: Tahir Whitehead (2013)".
  15. Carlos Marnorrez (August 25, 2014). "Detroit Lions LB Tahir Whitehead muscling up depth chart after big game vs. Jaguars".
  16. Sean Yuille (September 1, 2014). "Lions depth chart released for Week 1 of season".
  17. "Stephen Tulloch injures ACL after celebrating sack".
  18. "Tahir Whitehead Stats -".
  19. "NFL Player stats: Tahir Whitehead (2014)".
  20. Dave Birkett (January 12, 2015). "Whitehead's emergence could make Tulloch expendable".
  21. " Detroit Lions depth chart: 07/01/2015".
  22. Dave Birkett (December 3, 2015). "After puzzling move, Lions LB Whitehead starting again".
  23. "NFL Player stats: Tahir Whitehead (2017)".
  24. "Tahir Whitehead".
  25. "Lions re-sign LB Tahir Whitehead". Detroit Lions. March 11, 2016.
  26. Rothstein, Michael (March 11, 2016). "Breaking down Tahir Whitehead's contract with the Lions". ESPN.
  27. Justin Rogers (May 10, 2016). "How LB Jon Bostic fits with Detroit Lions".[dead link]
  28. Justin Rogers (December 5, 2016). "Lions’ Tahir Whitehead in no danger of losing starting job".
  29. "NFL Player stats: Tahir Whitehead (2016)".
  30. 30.0 30.1 "Tahir Whitehead enjoys career-high tackles, leaves Lions with decision to make".
  31. Kyle Meinke (September 5, 2017). "Detroit Lions list 6 new starters on first depth chart of regular season".[dead link]
  32. "Detroit Lions at New York Giants - September 18th, 2017".
  33. "Raiders Sign Linebacker Tahir Whitehead". March 15, 2018.

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