Rams' Fisher not worried about Fairley's weight

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
Nick Fairley

Phoenix — Rams coach Jeff Fisher has known defensive tackle Nick Fairley for years because the coach's son, Trent, was a teammate of Fairley's at Auburn in 2010.

Even though Fairley struggled to stay healthy and keep his weight down during his four years with the Lions, Fisher is confident the enigmatic pass rusher can become a consistent player in St. Louis in 2015.

"I'm not concerned about it," Fisher said of Fairley's weight issues Monday at the NFL's annual meetings at the Arizona Biltmore resort. "I'm really not concerned about it. I think he's made lifestyle changes that he'll be fine."

Fairley signed a one-year deal with the Rams two weeks ago worth $5 million, though he could earn a couple million more in performance bonuses.

And because Fairley's joining one of the most loaded defensive lines in the NFL, there's no guarantee he will be a starter next season. At end, the Rams have Chris Long and Robert Quinn, and at tackle, they have Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers.

Donald was a force as a rookie with nine sacks and two forced fumbles. Brockers' production slipped in 2014 (two sacks) after playing well his first two years (four sacks in 2012, 5.5 in 2013), but he'll likely open camp as the starter after holding that spot the past three years.

"(Fairley) understands he's going to be in the rotation," Fisher said. "In a perfect world I've got a three-tackle rotation. Potentially, you might bring one of those ends down to rush inside. He understands if he wants to play he's going to have to be productive."

And based on his discussions with Fairley, Fisher expects Fairley to produce.

"Where you saw the good plays out of Nick in Detroit, I think he can become consistently that player," Fisher said.

Fairley flashed Pro Bowl potential during his time with the Lions, who drafted him 13th overall in 2011. In 2012, Fairley had 5.5 sacks and two forced fumbles in 13 games, and in 15 games in 2013, he had six sacks, a safety and a forced fumble.

Last season, Fairley was playing well the first half of the season, but missed the final eight games with a knee injury.

Before the 2014 season, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew declined the fifth-year option on Fairley's rookie deal, which would've cost $5.5 million. Even though the Lions lost Ndamukong Suh to the Dolphins in free agency, the Lions didn't make Fairley a good enough offer to keep him in Detroit, but Mayhew said it wouldn't be accurate to say the team's interest in re-signing him was limited.

Mayhew met with Fairley's agent, Brian Overstreet, at the combine, but he declined to say what the team offered Fairley.

"We talked quite a bit about his situation, and I'm glad that he was able to land there and hopefully he can get it rolling in the right direction."

Rejecting Fairley's option was a motivational ploy by the Lions, hoping to inspire him by making it a contract year. The concept had mixed results as Fairley's weight continued to fluctuate until he briefly lost his starting job in training camp, but while he was injured, Fairley kept the weight off. Fisher said he weighed about 282 pounds when he visited the Rams.

"I'm really hopeful that he's turned the corner," Mayhew said. "I saw some really positive things from him during the season, and I'm hoping he's been able to turn the corner."

Fisher said he plans to have Fairley bulk up again before the season, but wouldn't say his desired weight range for Fairley.

The Rams have five other Auburn players on their roster, which Fisher thinks could help keep Fairley motivated. Fisher also said Fairley hit it off with St. Louis defensive line coach Mike Waufle, though he got along well with Lions assistants Kris Kocurek and Jim Washburn.

"He's going to be in shape ready to play," Fisher said. "I know what kind of kid he is. He's a good kid."