Nick Fairley optimistic he can return this season

Posted Dec 3, 2014

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who missed the last four games with a sprained knee, still seems confident he can return this season.

Detroit Lions head coach Jim Caldwell told reporters Monday he wasn't certain if defensive tackle Nick Fairley would return this season.

Fairley, who missed the last four games with a sprained knee, seems a little more optimistic than his head coach.

Nick FairleyDT Nick Fairley (Photo: Gavin Smith / Detroit Lions)

“Right now I’m taking it one day at a time,” said Fairley, who spoke to reporters in the locker room Wednesday for the first time since injuring his knee Oct. 26 vs. Atlanta. “Just trying to strengthen my knee up as strong as I can so I can hopefully get back out there this year.”

Is that a real possibility?

"In my eyes, yes," Fairley said.

Fairley was injured when he and fellow defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh met at Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan in the second quarter of the Lions' 22-21 come-from-behind victory. Fairley bent back awkwardly on his right knee.

He’s avoided surgery thus far and is hoping rehab gets him back on the field sometime in the next month, though he didn't rule out surgery in the future. The Lions have not put him on injured reserve, which means they're optimistic he can return as well.

Fairley looked good talking to reporters and said his current weight is 292 pounds. Fairley was playing the most consistent football of his career before he was injured at around 305 pounds. His ability to keep his weight down during rehab has impressed his coach.

“A difficult thing to do sometimes when you’re somewhat inactive,” Caldwell said. “Now he is doing rehab and things of that nature, but it can be difficult sometimes to keep your weight to where it’s manageable. He’s been able to do that.”

Fairley is an unrestricted free agent after the year, but said his contract status wouldn’t affect his return to the field.

“I can’t avoid thinking about it. It’s here. You know what I’m saying?” Fairley said of his contract. “It’s going to come about. Right now I just have to put it on the backburner. I can’t think about it as much as I want to. I just have to wait until that time comes.”

He doesn’t think the knee injury will have any effect on contract negotiations this offseason.

It’s tough when an injury takes a player away from the field, especially early on, but Fairley said he’s had a great support system within the defensive line room. He and his linemates have group messaging on their phones and have stayed in contact daily.

Now that he’s back, Caldwell said he could see an extra bit of pep in Fairley’s step.

“I think the initial thing that happens to them is a bit of estrangement because they're not out there doing the work,” Caldwell said. “But yet (Fairley) came around quite a bit and we try and keep him around as much as we can.

“You can also see when he’s starting to make some headway. You begin to see them liven up a little bit more. He’s off those crutches and walking around. I mean, you hear him, which is comforting. He’s doing well.”

Fairley is taking part in team meetings and rehabbing. He spends about two hours in the weight room and two hours in the training room on a daily basis.

The next step in his rehab is getting on the bike and running, which he hasn’t started just yet.