Detroit — Ndamukong Suh gave us a pretty good scouting report on fellow defensive tackle Nick Fairley.
He is not blowing smoke when he says Fairley has more moves than the Pro Bowl superstar. He has a nice swim move. He has good foot work and attempts more things than Suh. Suh is a straight bull rusher who can move the most powerful of men like they are shopping carts in Aisle 3 at Hillers Market.
But it was Fairley who stood on the sidelines Friday when the Lions defense took the field during their third exhibition game against the Jaguars. The Lions are playing the ultimate power play to motivate Fairley, who is playful but not serious about his craft just yet.
They took away his money by not using the club option for next season. They threaten to take away his playing time by having him play behind C.J. Mosley, a man who has just 11.5 sacks in 10 years and just 161 total tackles in 114 games, which includes just 22 starts.
If this doesn’t wake Fairley up, nothing will. And maybe the message is beginning to sink through. He appeared slimmer Friday night than even a week ago.
He recorded just one tackle but Fairley appeared more athletic and he even had his shopping cart moment when he pushed Jags backup center Luke Bowanko into quarterback Chad Henne in the first quarter. He was in on plays even though he did not make any. Baby steps for our version of Big Baby.
This is a demotion. Defensive coordinator Teryl Austin admitted as much earlier this week.
“Like we do with all our guys, we talk to them. We tell them exactly where they stand so there’s no gray area,” Austin told reporters. “So they don’t feel like they’re being blindsided. So he understands. Since that time he’s been working really hard to try to get back to being a starter because that’s what he’s used to doing.”
There is an urgency with this team. The fans grew tired of the mediocre Lions a long time ago. Management followed suit by making this a make or break year. Players no longer talk about simply winning games. They want to make the playoffs and if all of their pieces stay motivated and healthy, the Lions have a shot at it.
Golden Tate wore his Super Bowl ring, won last season with the Seahawks, during their last road trip to Oakland. He wore the bling because he was proud but he mostly wore it to motivate his new teammates.
The train is rumbling and whoever is not on board is being left behind. Fairley is one of those guys. He gained weight during training camp, admitting he packed on the pounds by feeding his face too much. Fairley is being treated the same way as a seventh-round draft pick would and he should. The difference is he has 16 regular season games to show the Lions that he belongs here long term.
Fairley claims he wants to remain here. Now he must prove it.
No one cares that he won a national championship at Auburn. No one cares that he was a first-round draft pick or that he proclaimed himself and Suh the best defensive tackle tandem in the NFL. Suh is keeping up his part of the bargain. Fairley is not.
No one cares that he has a big heart and loves kids and wants to do the right thing as a human being.
If Fairley does not produce he will find himself moving to another team where he will get another chance for a smaller price.
A good guy, but ...
He sometimes lacked motivation when he played at Auburn. In college the beat goes on when you are this talented. But this is big boy school and the Lions are sending a message that you either get with the program or your playing time is reduced.
I cannot tell you what happened to this man. I went to his kick ball event on Detroit’s southwest side and he looked pretty good. He had a gut but Fairley always will have a gut. But he looked like he was ready for the season.
There are expectations for this club and if the Lions’ defense is to contribute and hide a suspect secondary then all hands must be on deck on the defensive line.
I am sure Mosley is working hard in practice and impresses coaches. But let’s face hard facts. His best is not Fairley at his best.