NFC North: Nick Fairley

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Nick Fairley hasn’t practiced for eight weeks. He has missed seven games. On Monday, though, Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell still wouldn’t rule him out of returning at some point this season.

Fairley
 Caldwell said there is no deadline for either Fairley to return or for the team to place him on injured reserve.

“I keep saying it, but he is getting better,” Caldwell said. “He’s coming along. Off the crutches, into strength training on that particular injury and he’s making progress.”

Caldwell said roster situations would dictate whether or not the Lions would continue to keep Fairley active in hopes of a return at some point, either Sunday against Green Bay or during the playoffs. The Lions will continue to weigh the possibility of keeping him up or putting him on injured reserve.

Fairley injured his knee against Atlanta in London during Week 8. He didn’t have surgery on the knee and has been improving over the past two months. He has been spotted walking without crutches in recent weeks.

The Lions have used a combination of C.J. Mosley, Andre Fluellen and Jason Jones in Fairley’s place during the time he's missed.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Nick Fairley is improving, but Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell said he still doesn’t know when the defensive tackle will return to the lineup.

“You’ve probably seen him around a little bit and you can tell his spirits are up,” Caldwell said. “He’s improving. He’s into a little different phase now in terms of the rehab and hopefully he continues to improve.”

Fairley
Fairley said last week he hopes he is able to return this season. He injured his knee in Week 8 against Atlanta and has been rehabilitating since. He is off of his crutches and said last week that his next step would be riding the bike or running softly.

The Lions, meanwhile, have maintained their top-ranked run defense without him in the lineup. Somehow, Detroit’s run defense has actually improved with Fairley out of the lineup. The Lions allowed an average of 74 rushing yards per game during the first half of the season when Fairley was healthy.

In the last five games, without Fairley, Detroit has allowed an average of 45 rushing yards per game.

Detroit has replaced Fairley in the lineup with a combination of C.J. Mosley, Andre Fluellen and Jason Jones. Still, the Lions miss their giant defensive tackle opposite Ndamukong Suh.

“You just don’t find very many guys that are that big, that fast, that strong,” Caldwell said. “That disruptive. Although we’ve been able to play quite well, C.J. has stepped in and played quite well, Flu stepped in and played well, obviously it’s required that Suh has played a few more snaps than maybe we’d like in some cases.

“So we’ve had to make some adjustments to compensate for his absence.”

Fairley, like Suh and Mosley, is in the final year of his contract.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Nick Fairley wakes up most mornings by 7:30 a.m. He’s in the Detroit Lions practice facility by 9 and then, the consistent rehabilitation of his knee injury begins.

Fairley
The defensive tackle estimates he is working on his knee between three and four hours every day, between lifting weights, being in the training room and working on rehab as well. He also fits in team meetings with the defensive line as well so his mind can stay sharp.

It's all in an effort to see if he can try to return to the Lions this season after suffering a knee injury in Week 8 against Atlanta. Since that point, Lions coach Jim Caldwell has been noncommittal on Fairley’s status for the season, often saying he’s not sure if the fourth-year defensive tackle from Auburn would return.

“Guys in my D-line room are helping me out a whole lot,” Fairley said. “The guys have been sending me texts back and forth. On Sundays, I’m sitting there at one in the morning. Guys like [Ndamukong] Suh sent me one like five minutes ago, ‘How you doing?’ He had seen me walk in today.

“They stay on top of me and help keep me in a positive mind.”

He’s been doing a pretty good job of that himself, too. Fairley said he weighs 292 pounds and he looks about as slim as he did during offseason workouts, when he was probably the most fit at any point in his Lions career. He still has his personal chef and has been able to keep the weight off despite not being able to run or ride the bike yet.

He said he doesn’t know when he’ll reach that point, but is sure he’ll be told about it the day before.

“Early on, it’s always a little bit difficult for them,” Caldwell said. “The initial thing that happens to him is a bit of estrangement because they are not out there doing the work, but yet he stayed and came around quite a bit. We try to keep him around as much as we can, but you can also see when they are starting to make some headway.

“You can see them liven up a little bit more. He’s off those crutches and walking around and you hear him, which is comforting. But he’s doing better.”

Fairley has been walking around the facility with a brace on his knee -- one similar to what offensive linemen typically wear in games.

Before Fairley’s injury, he had 14 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble. He was also one of Detroit’s best run stoppers, although the Lions have been able to make up for his absence with C.J. Mosley, Darryl Tapp and Jason Jones.

He had, though, been playing some of the best ball of his career in his contract year. And while he tries not to think about it, he admits his future crosses his mind from time to time.

“Really, I can’t avoid thinking about it,” Fairley said. “It’s hit me. It’s going to be here. It’s going to come about. So right now, I just got to keep it in the background, can’t think about it.

“I just got to wait until that time comes.”

He meant about his contract, but he could have been two-fold there – with his future both off the field and on it.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Each week, we’ll take a look at who or what might be rising or falling with the Detroit Lions.

RISING:

Bell
RB Joique Bell: Even when Reggie Bush returns, Bell has done enough to become Detroit’s featured back. When he is in the game, he is the Lions’ most productive and decisive runner. He continually fights for tough yardage and has enough instinct to bounce outside quickly if the initial hole he’s supposed to run through is closed. Bell has averaged 3.96 yards per carry or more in three of the past four games and is coming off the second multi-TD effort of his career.

DE Ezekiel Ansah: He has been improving every week but last week against Chicago he hit a new pinnacle, hurrying Chicago quarterback Jay Cutler nine times according to Pro Football Focus (initially credited with 10). He already has more tackles in 12 games this season (40) than he did in 14 games last year (32) and with 6.5 sacks and four games left, is on pace to pass his rookie mark of eight. Ansah rates fourth among 4-3 defensive ends according to PFF and is tied with Carlos Dunlap for second among 4-3 defensive ends with 13 quarterback hits.

Detroit’s run defense: The Lions are so good against the run teams are actively scheming against bashing into the Detroit front four at this point because opponents know it might be a futile exercise. Despite having Matt Forte, the Bears only had eight carries Thursday, the second straight game a team has actively planned to avoid running against the Lions.

FALLING:

Palmer
LB Ashlee Palmer: This doesn’t have much to actually do with Palmer, but rookie Kyle Van Noy is slowly starting to creep into Palmer’s time on the field. Lions coach Jim Caldwell said Monday “the more the merrier” when it comes to being able to play Palmer and Van Noy at strongside linebacker. So why is Palmer falling then? Well, in the first half of the season, Palmer was the main 4-3 player on the strong side after Tahir Whitehead got hurt. So his snaps are going to continue to drop a little bit as long as Van Noy stays healthy.

Detroit's NFC North title chances: The Lions still have some control here, but likely have to win out to claim the NFC North crown. That would include a win at Lambeau Field in the regular-season finale and that’s a place they haven’t won since the early 1990s. Green Bay is on a roll now and like the Lions have a fairly light schedule -- other than going to Buffalo -- before that Week 17 meeting.

DT Nick Fairley: Jim Caldwell once again said he isn’t sure if the defensive tackle is going to make it back this season. He continues to leave the door open, but he made it pretty clear right guard Larry Warford, who also has a knee injury, is on a different path to return than Fairley. Each week Fairley is not on the field at least practicing leaves more questions about where his status for the season truly lies.
BRISTOL, Conn. -- The Detroit Lions have appeared fairly healthy all week leading into their game Sunday against the New England Patriots.

Now, though, there is going to be at least one question mark at Gillette Stadium.

Running back Reggie Bush, who has practiced on a limited basis all week with that lingering ankle injury, is officially questionable .

If Bush doesn't play, Detroit will once again go with heavy usage for Joique Bell along with increased work for Theo Riddick. It would probably be a similar plan to last Sunday against Arizona, when Bell rushed for 85 yards.

Only two players are completely out for Detroit: right guard Larry Warford and defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

Jason Jones, who told Detroit reporters on Friday his personal absence was dealing with his sick child in Tennessee, returned to practice Friday and is probable. Golden Tate appeared on the injury report for the first time this week -- limited in practice with a hip injury. He is probable for Sunday, though.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Eric Ebron hasn't played football in a month. Now he'll be in the starting lineup.

The Detroit Lions are starting the rookie tight end on Sunday against Arizona after usual tight end Brandon Pettigrew was listed as an inactive as he continues to deal with a foot injury. Ebron had missed the Lions' last three games with a hamstring injury of his own.

Both he and Joseph Fauria will be active, along with Kellen Davis, who has played for Detroit in the past two games.

Ebron has 10 catches for 103 yards and a touchdown this season, the most of any Detroit tight end.

The Lions are also officially without running back Reggie Bush. Joique Bell will start in his place.

It is the second straight year the Lions have had a surprise inactive at Arizona. Last season, defensive tackle Nick Fairley was surprisingly inactive for Detroit against the Cardinals. He won't be active again this season as he continues to deal with a knee injury.

Lions inactives: QB Kellen Moore, RB Reggie Bush, RG Larry Warford, DE Larry Webster, WR Ryan Broyles, TE Brandon Pettigrew, DT Nick Fairley.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions still don't know how many tight ends they'll have Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, but it seems like a safe bet at least one of them won't play.

Rookie Eric Ebron was listed as doubtful on the team's injury report Friday after practicing on a limited basis Wednesday and Thursday, giving the indication he won't be out there when Detroit starts the second half of the season. He has been dealing with a hamstring injury and has missed the Lions' past two games.

Of the three injured Detroit tight ends, he was also clearly doing the least during the team's practices the past two days.

The news on the other tight ends is a little bit better. Both Joseph Fauria (ankle) and Brandon Pettigrew (foot) are listed as questionable for Sunday. Fauria practiced all three days on a limited basis and Pettigrew worked out Thursday and Friday. It would be a surprise at this point if neither of them played, but with questionable status, it could be a gametime decision on both.

One tight end who will be part of the offense is Kellen Davis, who is the team's only healthy tight end at this point.

Detroit has only ruled out one player, Nick Fairley. Calvin Johnson (ankle), Reggie Bush (ankle), Ezekiel Ansah (toe), LaAdrian Waddle (concussion) and George Johnson (hamstring) are all probable.

George Johnson was the only new member of the injury report Friday as he sat out practice.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – The Detroit Lions still don’t have a timetable for the return of defensive tackle Nick Fairley, but the team has received a bit of good news about him.

He apparently won’t need surgery as of now.

Fairley
“Probably same answer I gave before. He’s still in the evaluation process,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “But he’s had a couple of evaluations and the doctors have stressed that rest and some healing will hopefully give them a little clearer picture of what should be done.

“But right now, it’s non-surgical at this point.”

Fairley injured his knee during the first half of the Lions' come-from-behind win over Atlanta in London.

Fairley was spotted Friday walking out of the Lions’ facility in Allen Park, Michigan, on crutches but appeared to be in good spirits and said he was feeling good.

To replace him, the Lions are going to have C.J. Mosley start and give increased snaps to rookie Caraun Reid. Beyond that, the Lions signed Andre Fluellen, who can play defensive tackle or defensive end, and also could move ends Darryl Tapp or Jason Jones inside depending on the situation.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Ndamukong Suh might not play every defensive snap for the Detroit Lions these days, but the defensive tackle ends up playing way more than most at one of the most grueling positions in football.

Yet he hardly ever shows pain. He hardly ever appears to be hurt at all. He just goes out, plays, gets up and does it all over again. He’s done this for 3,697 defensive snaps and counting during his four-plus years in the NFL.

But does he actually hurt?

“I may not show that to you, but everything hurts,” Suh said Wednesday. “I think mentally I’m just a different cat.”

There’s been little question of that since Suh arrived in the NFL as the No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft. He’s always played with a very high intensity – intensity that in the past has gotten into trouble with fines for hitting quarterbacks and others, along with a two-game suspension. This season, though, he’s been much calmer.

He has yet to be fined. He has rarely picked up a penalty. And all he’s done is continue to go out, play after play, to try and annihilate an opponent’s offensive line.

[+] EnlargeNdamukong Suh, C.J. Spiller
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsNdamukong Suh is having a much quieter -- but still productive -- 2014 season.
He looks to how he trains in the offseason back in his native Oregon – something that caused some consternation this past offseason with a new coaching staff in place – as a reason for his sustained health and success. He has yet to miss a game in his career to injury.

It is somewhat amazing considering how much he is out there. Out of Detroit’s 484 defensive snaps this season, Suh has been on the field for 393 of them. Out of 982 snaps last season, Suh participated in 836 of them.

His rookie season, when Suh said he felt he never came off the field, he played 905 of a possible 1,005 defensive snaps.

“I’m built that way,” Suh said. “I’m built to endure long drives, endure to just go out there and just play whatever snaps I need to play. I think over the years [I've] proven that I can maintain and take care of myself and play whatever game, whatever consequences that may come our way.”

He’s going to need to keep that endurance going in the next few weeks. While the Lions still have four defensive tackles, his fellow first-round partner, Nick Fairley, is out with a knee injury. While he has familiarity playing with C.J. Mosley, there is a good chance Suh will again receive the double-team attention he has in years past.

Considering what is behind Suh and Mosley – rookie Caraun Reid and the recently-signed Andre Fluellen – the Lions might need Suh to play at the rate he did his first year in the NFL to maintain their success as a defense ranked in the Top 10 in almost every statistical category.

“There’s no question that he’s a guy that understands what it takes to perform well,” Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. “He’s been outstanding for us. I think when you look at the way he prepares, we can anticipate that week after week, that we’re going to get the same type of effort, the same kind of production.”

Once, that might have seemed like an important benefit for Detroit to have. Now, with the Lions playing as well as they are and as reliant as they are on strong defensive line play to make their whole defense flow, it might become a necessity.
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Matthew Stafford stood at the podium a continent from home last month, almost giddy.

The sixth-year Detroit Lions quarterback had completed the unthinkable a few moments earlier, leading the Lions to their second straight double-digit come-from-behind win against an NFC South team, this time a 22-21 win against the Falcons in London.

There Stafford stood, possibly happier than anyone in the United Kingdom at that moment. In the NFL, these types of comebacks don't happen. This isn't college and Stafford is no longer at Georgia. Yet there he was, running the offense for the inexplicable, improbable, unbelievable Detroit Lions. They are 6-2 and controlling their own playoff future for the second straight season after a first half of a season that has included big comebacks and some of the worst kicking performances in recent NFL history.

MVP: The defensive line. This was a tough call because of the sustained strong play of receiver Golden Tate, who has often been the sole reason the Lions were able to have offensive success. But the Detroit defense has been in the top 10 in almost every category for the majority of the season, and all of that begins with the 10 men on the defensive line. Ndamukong Suh is the No. 5 defensive tackle in the game, according to Pro Football Focus, and Nick Fairley, before his knee injury, was ranked 12th by PFF. Why this unit earns the MVP award, though, is because of its role players. George Johnson was an off-the-street find who has given the Lions another pass-rusher besides Ezekiel Ansah at end. Jason Jones is playing back to form and Darryl Tapp is showing versatility against the run and pass. The Lions don't have anywhere close to the top-rated defense in the league if not for the front four.

Biggest disappointment: Nate Freese and Alex Henery. The Lions' first and second kickers this season were abysmal. Freese turned into a wasted draft pick who probably should not have been kept in training camp over Giorgio Tavecchio. Freese was cut after an inconsistent preseason and three weeks of missed kicks. The Lions replaced him with Henery, who on paper looked to be a decent option. However, he missed three field-goal attempts against Buffalo, including a potential game-winner, and he was gone the next day, replaced by Matt Prater. That the Lions couldn't figure out their kicking situation until Week 6 reflects on the coaches and front office.

Best moment: The last four minutes against New Orleans. The first of two improbable comebacks in the first half of the season, the way Detroit came back from 13 points down against New Orleans in the final four minutes -- a long Tate run-after-catch for a touchdown, an interception by Glover Quin and then a Stafford touchdown pass to Corey Fuller -- encapsulated what the Lions are trying to be this season. It showed Detroit's explosiveness on offense and defense, and after the season it could be one of those wins that is viewed as a turning point.

Worst moment: Calvin Johnson's ankle injuries. The first, against Green Bay, didn't look too bad. Johnson hobbled off the field a little bit but returned later in the game. What followed, though, ended the effectiveness of the top receiver in the NFL for the first half of the season. Johnson was hobbled against the Jets and played against Buffalo, when he aggravated the ankle on his only catch of the day. He hasn't played since, and it has not been good for the Detroit offense or for Johnson, who has dealt with finger, knee and ankle injuries the past two seasons.

Key to the second half: Improved offensive line play. Stafford was sacked 24 times in the first half of the season -- one more time than all of last season. Though the protection has improved the past three weeks, including no sacks allowed against Atlanta, the Lions need to protect him better for there to be sustained success. They also need to figure out a way to block for the run more effectively. The Lions have one of the two worst rushing offenses in the league a season after running backs Reggie Bush and Joique Bell were considered one of the best tandems in the NFL. Games at New England, Chicago and Green Bay are going to be much tougher for Detroit to win in winter if it can't find its run game.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- After having the bye week off, both wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush returned to practice for the Detroit Lions on Monday, possibly a sign they will both be ready to go against Miami next Sunday.

Bush
Bush
Johnson
Johnson has not played since aggravating his high right ankle sprain in Week 5 against Buffalo, and Bush missed two of the past three games with an ankle sprain of his own.

Also back at practice were the recently activated Kyle Van Noy and defensive tackle C.J. Mosley, back from suspension.

Only four Lions players missed practice: tight ends Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron and defensive tackle Nick Fairley.

The Lions also made a plethora of practice squad moves Monday, signing tight end Jordan Thompson, cornerback Trevin Wade and defensive tackle Roy Philon. They also cut tight end Ifeanyi Momah from the practice squad.

Bios on new practice squad players:

TE Jordan Thompson: Thompson was cut by the Lions on Saturday after two games with the team. He was targeted once and dropped the ball, having it hit off his hands for an interception. He is a long-term project for Detroit at long-snapper.

CB Trevin Wade: Wade, from Arizona, was drafted by Cleveland in the seventh round of the 2012 draft. Between Cleveland in 2012 and New Orleans in 2013, Wade played in 15 games, making 11 tackles. He also appeared in both of the Saints playoff games last season, making two tackles.

DT Roy Philon: Philon, who went undrafted out of Louisville, has spent time with Pittsburgh and Chicago since May.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions used their off week to rest and try to heal their many, many injured players, but there is not complete clarity as to whether any of them we'll be back Sunday against Miami.

That includes wide receiver Calvin Johnson, running back Reggie Bush and all three of their main tight ends: Brandon Pettigrew, Joseph Fauria and Eric Ebron.

Bush
Bush
Johnson
"We'll have to wait and see, to be honest with you," Lions coach Jim Caldwell said. "And it'll be just like every week, it'll be a day-to-day thing."

Johnson has not played since Week 5 against Buffalo, when he aggravated his high right ankle sprain. Bush has dealt with an ankle sprain the past three weeks. The Lions rested last week in the hopes of getting those players back for the second half of the season.

Johnson told reporters last week he expects to play against Miami on Sunday.

One player who won't be back any time soon is defensive tackle Nick Fairley. Caldwell said the team doesn't have any more clarity on Fairley's situation after he injured his knee in the first half against Atlanta.

Caldwell indicated Fairley will continue to seek opinions on his knee and won't set a timetable for his return or if he'll return this season.

"I'm not certain exactly where he is at this point in time," Caldwell said. "Nobody does. There's anything that can happen. There can be an unbelievable turnaround or it could be lengthy.

"So we'll have to wait and see."
LONDON – Nick Fairley stood in a back corner at the Pennyhill Park Hotel in England on Thursday morning and talked about how he felt he was finally in the best shape of his career.

At the time he admitted that yes, sometimes he wonders what might have been if he had gotten in shape earlier in his Detroit Lions career. He tried, he said, not to let it bother him.

Now, it might haunt him for a long time.

[+] EnlargeNick Fairley
AP Photo/Ann HeisenfeltNick Fairley has been a force this season, but will his injury cost him a future in Detroit?
Fairley is out for a yet-to-be-determined amount of time after suffering a knee injury against Atlanta -- an injury that left Jim Caldwell “not certain” whether Fairley will be able to return this year. So depending what the Lions choose to do with the defensive tackle in the offseason, there’s a chance Fairley might have played the last snaps of his Detroit career.

Lions general manager Martin Mayhew and Caldwell were going to have a tough decision to make on Fairley even if he had been healthy the entire season and continued to play at his optimal weight.

He had been a disruptive force in the middle opposite Ndamukong Suh this season, forcing offensive lines to account for both of the first-round defensive tackles as potential game-changing players. He also had appeared to be much happier with his play, often smiling when talking about his consistency.

Even Mayhew was praising how Fairley worked to get into the shape he has and the seriousness he has approached this season with.

Now, it is a season in jeopardy and depending on his rehab and what the Lions thought of what they saw, it makes the upcoming decision of trying to re-sign him or not both tougher and easier.

The easy, obvious decision would be to part ways with Fairley if he wants a decent-sized contract. In this, his contract year, he gave them seven consecutive games of consistent, high-level play. For his career, though, he has been disruptive one game and disappeared the next. He has not played 16 games in a season, either -- another concern for a long-term deal.

But the tougher decision comes because of what Fairley could still do if he is able to stay healthy. Fairley himself said he hoped he was still in the beginning stages of a long career. The injury could actually bring the team to a prove-it, short-term deal -- especially if Suh leaves during free agency and Fairley ends up not being able to return in 2014.

If a short-term deal can’t be reached at some point, Fairley’s injury might seal Detroit’s decision to move on from the mammoth defensive tackle who has potential but has never been able to reach it.

The one caveat here could be if Fairley is able to rehab well enough to come back and continue his consistent play by the end of the season. That might be the outlet for showing that even when he isn’t able to play, he can remain in shape and can continue to be effective. That maybe he truly has learned to monitor himself when it comes to his weight and then could be worth taking a chance on.

Either way, the injury leaves the Lions -- and Lions fans -- wondering this: Is Fairley a classic case of a player who decided to show up only once money and his career were on the line, or is he a player who just finally started to understand everything and put it together for a consistent career going forward?

Mayhew and Caldwell have to weigh which one fits Fairley more and how he could fit within Detroit’s scheme in the future. And they will have a half-season of healthy work, as of now, to make that judgment.

Based on the evidence of inconsistency prior to the 2014 season, the Lions may have their answer. If they can’t get Fairley to sign a short-term deal that could be beneficial to both sides and also provide Fairley the continued motivation he had this season, it might be time to move on without him.
BAGSHOT, England – Nick Fairley doesn’t regret how he reached this point now that he’s playing the most consistent and best he has in his career. There are times, though, where he will let his mind percolate the possibilities of what might have been.

What could have happened if he had committed himself to being in shape sooner?

The fourth-year Detroit Lions defensive tackle knows why the question is asked, too. For the first three seasons of his career, Fairley was inconsistent and unable to stay on the field for long stretches, either because of being out of shape or injured.

His play yo-yoed between flashes of dominance and stretches of invisibility – a long way away from the dominant defensive lineman who helped Auburn win a national championship in 2010, becoming a first-round draft pick in 2011.

[+] EnlargeNick Fairley
AP Photo/Ann HeisenfeltNick Fairley is in better shape and it's translated well to the field, as he's having his most consistent season.
“It’s in the back of my mind,” Fairley said. “But I’m not trying to let it bother me. I’m just moving forward and I’ll put my best foot forward from here on out.”

In the past seven games, that foot has been a large reason why the Lions have the top-ranked defense in the NFL. While Ndamukong Suh often demands double-teams from opposing offensive linemen, teams now have to be more wary of Fairley.

Even though Fairley’s numbers are down from the past two seasons statistically (14 tackles, one sack this season), he has become a far better and more consistent player for the Lions in 2014. He is the No. 9 defensive tackle in the league according to Pro Football Focus – ranked sixth in rushing the passer and ninth against the run.

He’s becoming what general manager Martin Mayhew hoped when he declined Fairley’s option for a fifth season during the offseason, making him a free agent following this year.

“He’s playing well,” Mayhew said. “I think the coaching staff has done a great job working with him, teaching him the right way to go. His linemates, or teammates, have high expectations for him.

“He’s obviously taking the lead on getting his weight down and getting in better condition and hired a chef and helped with that process. I think Nick gets a lot of credit for that. I think it’s great what he’s doing and I’m glad he’s doing that and I want him to keep doing it.”

Mayhew talks with Fairley often about a gamut of things, but said not about his contract. Even though Fairley is having a good season, Mayhew said he is not talking about future contracts with anyone, including Suh and Fairley.

Fairley is at least doing what Mayhew hoped he would, so it puts him in the conversation for a contract if both players want it.

And with Fairley, there might be room to improve, too, as this is the first time in his career he has been playing with consistency. And even though he thinks about it, it doesn’t bother him he didn’t get into better shape sooner because he believes he is at the beginning of a long career.

“I can’t call how it would be,” Fairley said. “But I think I would be up there in the top [among defensive tackles], you know what I’m saying, be recognized a lot more.”

One of his biggest supporters – from the time he was struggling until now – has been the guy he lines up next to play after play, Suh.

“He’s a guy that’s going to be a dominant force in this league for many years to come,” Suh said. “I don’t expect anything less from him.

“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: He has the talent to be better than me and he’s just got to continue to work and take care of business like he’s been.”
The Detroit Lions were down their top wide receiver, two of their top three tight ends and still had a hobbled running back in Reggie Bush.

And yet receiver Ryan Broyles still rarely stepped on the field against the New Orleans Saints.

Broyles
The former second-round pick actually saw six snaps Sunday -- the most he’s had all season -- but four of those plays were runs. He was not targeted, was barely used and clearly has no role in this offense now, even with injuries all over the place to skill-position players.

Only one offensive player -- sixth lineman Travis Swanson -- played fewer offensive snaps than Broyles, and Swanson had five of them.

The Lions stuck with a three-receiver base set most of the game, too, with Golden Tate in on 63 of 70 plays, Jeremy Ross on 62 of 70 plays and Corey Fuller on 62 of 70 plays. Then came Broyles, who barely filled in.

He plays a different position, but tight end Jordan Thompson, who was called up Saturday by the Lions, had double the snaps of Broyles (12) and was even targeted once (an interception that bounced off his hands to Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro).

Considering the Lions are in a constant rotation of players and formations to try to gain an advantage on an opponent, the lack of usage for Broyles is pretty jarring.

He fought to make the team during training camp and has expressed both understanding and frustration about his usage before -- on Twitter last week and to ESPN last month.

But as the injuries to other players pile up and Broyles continues to remain on the bench, it is becoming more and more clear there just might not be much of a role for him on the Lions.

Other snap count notes for the Lions from Sunday:
  • Joique Bell saw the majority of the snaps at running back -- 52 for him and 18 for Bush. Coach Jim Caldwell said after the game it was “absolutely not” a benching when Bush sat for most of the second half and that Bush was still dealing with his ankle injury.
  • Nick Fairley played a season-high 47 snaps and had two tackles and a quarterback hit. Pro Football Focus also credited him with four hurries of Drew Brees.
  • In parsing the numbers for defensive alignments, the Lions went to their traditional nickel with Danny Gorrer on 30 of 74 plays, the base 4-3 with Ashlee Palmer on 17 snaps, the big nickel with Cassius Vaughn on 15 snaps and a third nickel package with Don Carey on 12 snaps. Isa Abdul-Quddus, who played one snap last week and was the initial big nickel back, played only special teams for 23 plays.
  • Linebacker Josh Bynes continues to get some run spelling Tahir Whitehead, as Bynes played 15 of 74 snaps but did not record a statistic. He is a core special teams player, too, so he’s carving out a role on this defense.
  • Once again, only backup quarterback Dan Orlovsky didn’t play, but these position players saw less than 10 combined snaps between offense, defense and special teams: Cornelius Lucas (four, special teams); Jerome Couplin (eight, special teams); Caraun Reid (eight, defense); and Broyles (six, offense).

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