When the Detroit Lions declined to pick up the fifth-year option on defensive tackle Nick Fairley’s rookie contract, they said it was because they wanted to motivate him to work harder heading into a contract year.
So far, it appears to be working.
With Lions general manager Martin Meyhew’s intentions clear, Fairley rededicated himself in the offseason, staying on a workout plan that allowed him to drop his weight to 295, or 27 pounds lighter than where he finished last season.
Fairley hit the football field Saturday as he took on Detroit area youth during the Third Annual Nick Fairley Kickball Tournament in Clark Park. If Lions executives and coaches haven’t noticed Fairley’s slimmer figure yet, they will at Monday’s organized team activity at the Lions practice facility in Allen Park.
“I’d say I’m back to my Auburn ways, I feel like back when I was at that national championship, and you know how that year went so looking to repeat it.”
Fairley might not be at full strength however, as he is currently recovering from a surgical procedure to cure sleep apnea. Nonetheless, he plans on having a big season.
Fairley is a player who has as much natural ability, if not more, than Ndamukong Suh, who the Lions are trying to re-sign this offseason as he enters the final season of his contract. If he transforms into the always-there player Detroit needs, it could finally give the Lions what they were desiring when they drafted Suh and Fairley in back-to-back seasons at the start of the decade.
If Fairley is indeed faster and less blockable, it might force teams to pick between Suh, Fairley and defensive end Ezekiel Ansah as to who to double. This should lead to more rush lanes for all three of those linemen along with anyone else new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is going to send at opposing quarterbacks.
Of coarse, this scenario would come hand-in-hand with a payday that could dwarf the $5.5 million he would’ve earned if Detroit had picked up his option.