MIKE O'HARA

TE Joseph Fauria continues work with a chip on his shoulder

Posted Jul 12, 2013

If the chip on Fauria's shoulder has remained firmly in place, so has his confidence after some six weeks of workouts with the Lions

Joe Fauria arrived at the Lions' rookie camp in May with a chip on his shoulder. He departed after the last mini-camp in June with the same chip firmly in place.

"It's still the same size," Fauria said before leaving for his home in Newport Beach. "It might be even bigger. I'll always have that 'undrafted' tag on my log."

A rookie scorned by the NFL draft is one who never forgets the slight.

Fauria, who'd shown promise as a pass-catching tight end at UCLA, watched 254 players get drafted over three days. Included in those 254 picks were 16 tight ends. What might have been the unkindest cut of all was seeing the Indianapolis Colts take tight end Justice Cunningham of South Carolina with the last pick.

If the chip on Fauria's shoulder has remained firmly in place, so has his confidence after some six weeks of workouts with the Lions. Despite not being drafted, Fauria did not feel overwhelmed or out of place competing with veterans and rookies.

Fauria has some obvious assets. One is his size – a little over 6 foot 7 and 259 pounds. The other is his pass-catching ability.

As NFL offenses increasingly emphasize the passing game, the premium is greater on tight ends who can catch the ball. A tight end with size and good hands can take advantage of favorable matchups against smaller defenders.

Fauria had a big senior season at UCLA, catching 46 passes for 637 yards and 12 touchdowns.

Even though the Lions drafted tight end Michael Williams of Alabama in the seventh round, they moved quickly after the draft to sign Fauria as a free agent. Fauria got a signing bonus of $12,500, a substantial amount for an undrafted rookie.

Fauria had some exposure to the pro game. His uncle, Christian, played tight end for 13 NFL seasons and was on two Super Bowl champions with the Patriots.

Nothing beats firsthand experience, and Fauria learned quickly that there is a transition from college to the pros, even though UCLA is a major football program with a national identity.

"This has been a very interesting process," Fauria said. "You see it a certain way when you're a kid – that it's glitz and glam. Right now, it's tough work. It's hard. You go from being 'the guy' in college."

Brandon Pettigrew and Tony Scheffler are established veterans on the depth chart at tight end. For any rookie, it's important to take advantage of every practice play.

"You don't get as many, but the organization has been kind to me," Fauria said. "As long as I do my job and continue to show what I can do and continue to improve every day, it's all up to me.

"I think I've gotten better every single day, whether it be minute details on my routes, or catching or understanding plays, studying or understanding defenses.

"This is your livelihood. This is guys' ways to put food on the table, provide for their families."

It's impossible to project the Lions' final 53-player roster after the final cuts, and Fauria hasn't made the mistake of playing the daily game of roster roulette on where he stands on his position's depth chart.

The Lions likely will keep three tight ends. Pettigrew and Scheffler are set in two of those spots. There are five tight ends on the roster, with the addition after mini-camp of Matt Veldman, who spent his 2012 rookie season on injured reserve with Jacksonville.

"I think I'm good enough to play in the NFL," Fauria said. "You've got to keep pushing away. You can't have that little voice putting you down. You've got to keep pushing through it --  go full speed and know what you're doing it. That will give you some sort of comfort, if you need it."