Practice field has been Nick Fairley's haven this offseason

Posted Jun 14, 2012

The news surrounding Nick Fairley this offseason has centered more on his off-the-field issues than his exploits on it.

Fairley was arrested in April for possession of marijuana and was arrested again in May on DUI charges and for attempting to elude police. It’s certainly been a tumultuous offseason for Fairley, but he’s finding solace on the practice field, and is turning some heads doing it.

“His haven, so to speak, has been the weight room and the meeting room and the field,” Lions head coach Jim Schwartz said. “He’s done a good job in all of those areas. He needs to make sure all the off-the-field stuff and injuries doesn’t keep him from being the player we know he can be, because he has a great personality and he works hard and he’s had a good spring.”

The first day the Lions opened the OTA practices to the media, Fairley was seen sneaking behind defensive line coach Kris Kocurek to give him a monstrous bear hug. Wednesday at minicamp, Fairley was doing a pass rush and pursuit drill with some dummies and when he knocked down the third and final dummy, it popped up and Fairley gave it three left jabs and a big right hook.

Knock out.

The field has been Fairley’s haven from the bad press and the Lions have high expectations for him on it after watching him practice and workout this offseason.“We have very high expectations for Nick,” Lions general manager Martin Mayhew told reporters before Wednesday’s mandatory minicamp practice. “He’s had an outstanding offseason out here on the field. Not so good off the field, but he’s been outstanding in practice here.

“He’s worked his butt off; he’s in great condition. He’s done some things on tape just out here running around that make you run the tape back and go, ‘who was that?’ He has tremendous, tremendous talent level and hopefully he can fulfill that.”

The 13th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Fairley was limited to 10 games as a rookie last year by a broken foot and had just one sack as he played through pain much of last season. This season, he's expected to make a much bigger impact.

“To see him healthy and the things he can do, and the way he can move and his quickness, it’s impressive,” defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said of Fairley. “He’s worked hard this offseason and he’s one of the guys we’re counting on to do big things for us this year.”

Fairley will probably be suspended when the regular season begins, likely for two games. The Lions are hoping all the bad press and the off-the-field issues are finally put to rest once he serves that suspension.Fairley released a statement about his arrests on his Facebook page last week, accepting responsibility for his actions and pledging to “uphold the expected standard of behavior of a professional athlete” heading forward.

Schwartz and the Lions are hoping this offseason has been a serious wake-up call for Fairley, because he’s been too good on the field for this to continue to be an issue moving forward.“If 10 or 15 years from now, however long it is, 50 years from now, if a player is able to look back and say, ‘you know what, that was my wake-up call and that led me to have a successful career,’ then maybe you make something positive out of it,” Schwartz said.

“The good thing can come after it happened. Everybody makes mistakes -- not everybody makes two mistakes in a row -- but if they learn their lesson and that’s the wakeup call and if that changes the way they conduct themselves and they’re able to have a successful career because of it, at least you turned something positive out of it.”