The team demoted Fairley to the second team following their first preseason game because he wasn’t playing well and veteran
Fairley says he’s working hard to correct the mistakes he’s made over the last two weeks and still hopes to be a starter for the regular season.
The Lions are hoping his demotion is a wake-up call that motivates the talented but inconsistent fourth-year defensive tackle. Whether he’s playing on the first or second team, the Lions still need Fairley to play well this year.
Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin is optimistic he’s starting to reach Fairley.
“Since that time, Nick has done a good job,” Austin said of Fairley’s play since his demotion. “He’s gotten better, he’s practiced better and we still need Nick to play well for us this year.
“At this point we’re still pushing Nick and he’s starting to push and he’s doing some better things. I would expect that he’s going to play better.”
The Lions declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Fairley’s rookie contract this offseason because of his inconsistent play over the first four years of his career. They were hoping it would motivate him to have a big season on a contract year.
That could still happen, obviously, but this is a bump in the road they were hoping to avoid when they declined the option in the first place.
Austin says there’s no grey area with Fairley. He’s sat down and talked to him about the expectations he has for him and it’s very clear that he needs to work hard to get back to being a starter.
“Our job is to try to get our guys to play well no matter what it takes,” Austin said. “Not everybody is going to be a guy that is a self-starter, work over the top all the time. There’s different ways that you have to motivate guys and get them going.
“That’s part of our job to figure out. What makes a guy tick? What’s going to help him play well? We’re doing whatever we can to try to do that because we feel (Fairley) is super talented, he’s a good guy and we just want him to play great. That’s what we’re working towards and I think he’s on track now.”