NFC North: Nick Fairley

The decision was difficult, mostly because Ndamukong Suh was the player the Detroit Lions had built so much of their defense around for the past five seasons and into the foreseeable future.

To put a franchise tag on Suh -- a decision the Lions passed on Monday morning -- would have meant potentially tying up an obscene amount of money in the defensive tackle if a long-term deal couldn't be reached for slightly less cash. It would have meant leaving little wiggle room to improve the roster through free agency, and perhaps more cap cuts for players deemed valuable to the franchise.

And it would have come with zero guarantee the Lions would have signed him to a long-term deal anyway. So it was smart of the Lions to pass on franchising Suh, although now it puts a lot more pressure on the team's front office to get a deal done before he hits the open market as one of the most coveted free agents since the inception of free agency in the NFL.

The Lions mismanaged themselves into this position. They restructured Suh's contract enough during the first four years of his deal that it left the franchise with a $22.4 million cap charge for his final season. So they had to understand if the franchise tag became something they would have to consider using, the cost would be the astronomical number it is (almost $26.9 million) instead of a much more reasonable number.

The restructures took what would have likely been a reasonable franchise tag for a player such as Suh -- somewhere between $10 million and $12 million -- and made the number almost impossible to deal with.

[+] EnlargeNdamukong Suh, C.J. Spiller
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsNow that the tag is no longer an option, can the Lions secure Ndamukong Suh to a long-term deal?
The restructures, along with long-term deals for quarterback Matthew Stafford and receiver Calvin Johnson, left the Lions with the potential for three massive contracts on the books while each player was entering or just leaving their primes. It is a financial quandary that would be difficult for any franchise to deal with.

The Lions shortened the window to get something done when they shut down negotiations with Suh prior to the season. This let J.J. Watt and Gerald McCoy essentially set the market price for Suh when he tries to become the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL, something likely to happen by the end of March, with either the Lions or another franchise. If Suh and the Lions had worked out a deal before the season, they could have set the high-end number and not had to worry about whether Suh would be around for the prime of his career.

An earlier contract could have also given more time to rework some other deals to find more room and a way to fit Suh, Johnson and Stafford under the cap and still have some money to improve the roster on the defensive line, offensive line, cornerback, running back and wide receiver. These are all areas where the Lions need to find players through the draft or free agency -- and the reason why they couldn't use the tag with the $26.9 million price tag.

It also would have made the decision to pass on emerging star defensive tackle Aaron Donald during the draft and declining Nick Fairley's fifth-year option in free agency easier to understand.

Yet the Lions did none of those things -- and continued to speak confidently about signing Suh to a long-term deal. Team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew have been saying this for over a year now, continually offering the same message: a deal, they believed, would get done.

Now, with the tag no longer an option, the Lions have a real deadline to reach a deal. And we'll see whether Lewand and Mayhew's confidence was justified, or a misjudgment of the entire Suh process if he walks to another team willing to pay.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- The Detroit Lions have had meetings over the past 48 hours that have delved into every one of their restricted and unrestricted free agents.

And the club has made decisions on some of them, but general manager Martin Mayhew was not saying who the team would like to bring back or move on from for the 2015 season.

The obvious keeper would be Ndamukong Suh, who the Lions are going to continue to negotiate with now that the season is over. Everyone else, though, appears to be up for debate.

“We just had that meeting yesterday, and I have not communicated with players who will be here, who won’t be here for the most part,” Mayhew said. “So I don’t want to get into each individual free agent and what their status is, but we are having those discussions right now.

“We had a big meeting [Wednesday] like I said, had a follow-up meeting with Sheldon White [Thursday] on the meeting from yesterday, and we’ll continue to talk about our roster and make decisions.”

Mayhew said they have made decisions to move on from players, but said they had not spoken with those players or their agents yet.

Detroit has 20 unrestricted free agents, two restricted free agents and one exclusive rights free agent in Jeremy Ross.

Other than the defensive tackle situation with Suh, Nick Fairley and others, some of the more critical decisions will come on the offensive line, where veterans Rob Sims and Dominic Raiola are both free agents. Both have settled into metro Detroit as their homes and have expressed a desire to return to the Lions.

“They are both outstanding guys, Rob and Dom, I think the world of both of those guys and they’ve been big contributors for us over the past few years,” Mayhew said. “As I said, we met yesterday and we’re still making decisions about how to proceed.”

Mayhew would not say whether or not bringing both Sims and Raiola back is an either/or proposition despite the presence of rookie Travis Swanson, who was drafted in 2014 to eventually become Raiola’s replacement at center. Swanson started four games at right guard and one game at center this season.

He also injured his knee in the playoff game against Dallas, but head coach Jim Caldwell said he doesn’t believe Swanson will need surgery.
The Detroit Lions are officially hitting the offseason this week with a lot of questions between now and the start of the 2015 season.

Below is a quick primer on some of the team’s biggest issues as the offseason begins:

1. Ndamukong Suh: The entirety of how the Detroit Lions handle the offseason – and perhaps the next couple of offseasons – revolves around what happens with Suh. If the Lions choose to franchise or transition tag Suh, it’ll come at a cost of more than $26 million for one season and the chance to keep negotiating in the hopes of a long-term deal. If they let him go to free agency, there’s a real chance they lose their most valuable player and could end up in a bidding war with other teams that have more cap room and/or flexibility. The question with how to handle Suh could be as simple as this: Do the Lions believe they have a one-year window left with their current roster, or do they see this group as one with long-term staying power? The decision on Suh will ultimately swing what the Lions do with Nick Fairley, C.J. Mosley, free agency and the 2015 draft.

2. The Dominic Raiola/Rob Sims question: It would seem highly improbable both are back in Detroit next season, especially with Travis Swanson looking capable of handling either the left guard or center spot. The biggest question here – and what might determine which way the Lions go – is if they believe Sims can play for two or three more seasons at a good level. If they do then keeping Sims might be the way to go since Raiola probably has only one more year left anyway. If they don’t then it could make sense to bring back Raiola for his 15th season and let Swanson play left guard for a year before moving to center.

3. Finding a third receiver: It’s somewhat baffling considering how much the Lions invested in their offense last offseason that once again they are hunting for a receiver. Golden Tate proved to be one of the best free-agent signings in the league, and Calvin Johnson is still one of the best in the game. But the Lions – especially if they are going to pull Johnson and/or Tate off the field again next season for some plays – need better depth. Unused Ryan Broyles enters the final year of his contract. Jeremy Ross, who might not be back if the Lions upgrade at returner, is an exclusive rights free agent. Corey Fuller has some promise but was again barely used. Detroit essentially drafted Eric Ebron to be the team’s third receiver, but he had a mediocre first year. Through free agency or the draft, the Lions once again have to look at receiver for depth.

4. Do you keep Reggie Bush: He vows to be healthy in 2015 after his 2014 was robbed by a lingering ankle injury. Provided the ankle doesn’t not continue to be a problem, Bush actually saved himself from a season’s worth of hits, which might be worth bringing him back for one season. If Detroit does keep him instead of cutting him, he’ll have to realize he’s returning to a different role with Joique Bell as the likely lead back and the potential of Detroit looking to running back in the draft. His $5.277 million cap hit is an ugly number for a situational back who will be 30 years old, but the Lions won’t save much by getting rid of him since his dead money is $3.555 million.

5. Matthew Stafford: The quarterback is turning into a conundrum. He’ll be 27 next season, which means he still has growth potential, but he is entering his seventh year in the league. Stafford learned a new offense this season and did what was asked of him, although it’s a question of how much that helped. He was sacked more than any season in his career, so he had to make more plays under duress. His completion percentage went up from last season, but it still was average in terms of NFL quarterbacks. His touchdowns were down, but so were his interceptions. His passer rating was his highest since 2011, but his QBR stayed in the same range as the past three seasons. The Lions are tied to Stafford for at least 2015 and possibly 2016 as well, where even though his guaranteed money is gone, he would still have $11 million in dead money. This is the biggest offseason of his career.

Salary numbers in this post come from ESPN Stats & Information.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- It looks like Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell might not get his Nick Fairley miracle after all.

The defensive tackle is officially listed as doubtful for Sunday against Dallas after returning to practice on a limited basis Thursday and Friday. This does not bode well for Fairley’s chances of making his return against the Cowboys.

Only one Detroit player has been officially ruled out for Sunday’s game. Right guard Larry Warford, who has not practiced all week, is officially out with a right knee injury. He’ll likely be replaced in the lineup by rookie Travis Swanson, who started Week 17 at center and started at right guard this season when Warford injured his left knee.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell said on Monday that it would take a miracle for defensive tackle Nick Fairley to play.

On Friday, when asked if Caldwell would change his assessment of miracle, he initially joked that he said that last year. That’s true, as 2014 turned to 2015, and it would seem Caldwell’s thoughts have changed on that as well.

“It’s still going to take ... we’ll see,” Caldwell said. “He’s coming along a lot faster. He hadn’t been on a practice field at that time. We saw him on the practice field, things look a little different.

“So we’ll kind of continue to assess that and see where he is.”

The first-year Lions coach didn’t dismiss what Detroit defensive coordinator Teryl Austin said Thursday, that he wouldn’t be opposed to having Fairley active even if he can play only five to 10 plays because of what he’s potentially able to create in those snaps.

Caldwell said Fairley is in a “practice process to play protocol,” which sounds like there is at least the possibility the Lions will use him in their playoff matchup against Dallas if he gets through Friday’s practice and Saturday’s walkthrough without any setbacks.

Fairley practiced for the second straight day Friday. The only Lions player who did not work out was right guard Larry Warford, who has not practiced all week with a right knee injury.
ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Darryl Tapp was sitting in the front of the Detroit Lions defensive line room Monday afternoon when he heard the door open in the back of the room. Then he heard it close again, open again and his head coach Jim Caldwell was standing in front of the linemen, explaining what had just happened.

The Lions were in the midst of watching tape of the Dallas Cowboys when Caldwell said the Lions’ top defensive lineman, Ndamukong Suh, had been suspended for Sunday’s wild-card playoff game.

“He just wanted to let us know so we wouldn’t be blindsides when y’all started asking us questions,” Tapp said. “Like ‘You hear about Suh?’ ‘No.’ He just wanted to let us know what the current situation was.”

[+] EnlargeNdamukong Suh
Tim Fuller/USA TODAY SportsThe Lions will be without Ndamukong Suh when they face the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday's wild-card playoff game.
Tapp said he and the rest of the defensive line found out about a half-hour before Lions met with the media for their first open locker room session of the week. Tapp said Suh did not address his teammates following the announcement of the suspension because Suh had to leave the facility immediately.

The Lions players said they were not disappointed in Suh, but many were disappointed in the situation and felt Suh’s stepping on the calf and ankle of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers was not intentional.

“No, there’s no disappointment in him,” safety James Ihedigbo said. “It’s one of those things. I saw the video. I was hoping he was going to get fined for it and we would move on and that would be the end of it.

“His suspension, I probably speak for myself and the rest of the guys, we have his back no matter what. He’s one of us. He’s our brother and we’ll support him and work towards getting this win so he can be back.”

To do this, the Lions are going to need to figure out a way to replace their most dominant defensive player and how to compensate for his presence on the defensive line. Suh constantly commanded double teams from opponents and teams would have to scheme differently than they do against other teams just to handle him.

His suspension -- if upheld -- leaves Detroit without two of its three first round picks on the defensive line from recent years. Besides Suh, the team’s first round pick in 2010, Caldwell said it would need to be “a miracle” if 2011 first round pick, defensive tackle Nick Fairley, played Sunday against Dallas.

With Fairley out, the Lions will have decisions to make on the defensive front. Tackle C.J. Mosley, who has been starting in Fairley’s place since his injury in Week 8, will remain one starter at tackle. The Lions could either move defensive ends Jason Jones or Tapp inside or start tackle Andre Fluellen at the other tackle spot if Suh is out.

The Lions understand the loss of Suh, but they are hoping the other defensive linemen call fill in with a reasonable facsimile of what they were doing before.

“We’re like Yahtzee,” Tapp said. “You just throw four out there. We make things happen.”

The Lions defense will need to make a lot of things happen, collectively, if they want to stop the league’s leading rusher, DeMarco Murray, without their most dominant defensive lineman.

“It would be a big blow to this defense,” linebacker Tahir Whitehead said. “If we don’t have him this week.”
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The Green Bay Packers say they're a different offense with a different running game than they were at Ford Field three months ago, when the Detroit Lions shut them down.

The Lions? They're the same.

What looked like a stout run defense back in Week 3 has proven to be the best in the league. Only one team -- and not a single running back -- has rushed for more than 100 yards against them this season.

And it wasn't the Packers.

[+] EnlargeEddie Lacy
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesEddie Lacy managed just 36 yards and the Packers only netted 76 yards as a team in the first meeting of the season with Detroit.
They didn't come close in their 19-7 loss Sept. 21.

Running back Eddie Lacy managed just 36 yards (his second-lowest total of the season) on 11 carries, and the Packers totaled just 76 yards on the ground, which is actually more than the Lions' season average of just 63.8 rushing yards allowed per game -- a figure that puts them on pace for the sixth-best total in NFL history.

So what makes the Packers think they will have any success running the ball against the league's No. 1-ranked rushing defense Sunday at Lambeau Field?

"We didn't have an identity Week 3," Packers left guard Josh Sitton said. "It always seems to take us awhile to get going and figure out who we are. Some teams come out right away and have their identity. It always takes us longer. We know who we are now, and we feel confident."

Coming out of the Lions' game, the Packers ranked 26th in rushing yards and 22nd in yards per carry (3.63). In the 12 games since, the Packers rank eighth in the league in rushing yards, and only two teams have bettered their yards-per-carry average of 4.61 in that stretch.

Then again, they haven't faced a run defense like Detroit's in months.

"Obviously they're good," Packers right tackle Bryan Bulaga said. "But we didn't play very well. You go back and watch the film, there wasn't enough finish early on in the year there. We just didn't play well. We just didn't play well enough to beat that team, so we're going to need to up our game quite a bit."

It's easy to put the onus Sunday on the offensive line -- and that group has willingly accepted it this week -- but it runs deeper. The Packers' tight ends bear almost as much responsibility in the run game. Consider what happened in the second quarter of the first meeting against the Lions. With the Packers backed up on their own 1-yard line, they tried to run Lacy off right tackle to get some breathing room. Defensive end Jason Jones overpowered rookie tight end Richard Rodgers, and when right guard T.J. Lang tried to help, it left a gaping hole for linebacker DeAndre Levy to dump Lacy for a safety.

With the likes of Jones, Ndamukong Suh, Ziggy Ansah and Nick Fairley controlling the line of scrimmage, it allowed Levy to run free and pile up 10 tackles.

The impact was this: Because the running game failed, it put the Packers in third-and-long situations that Aaron Rodgers could not convert.

"I think we had 54 plays in the game, that's not going to cut it," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "We obviously have to be productive in normal [down and distance] to create better third-down situations for ourselves, but I think third down will be a key statistic in the game."
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.

 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 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.

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.


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.


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.

“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.