ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- There are no hard feelings now. Nick Fairley understood it was merely about business.
Fairley, the Lions' first-round draft pick in 2011, spent four seasons in Detroit. Then his option for a fifth year wasn’t picked up by former general manager Martin Mayhew. He played out the 2014 season -- and did well before a knee injury in London kept him out of the final half of the season for Detroit.
Then free agency arrived and Fairley ended up signing a one-year deal with the St. Louis Rams, becoming part of one of the deepest defensive lines in the NFL.
Lions coach Jim Caldwell didn’t want to delve into specifics about why the Lions decided not to re-sign their former top pick. But Fairley was complimentary of the Lions.
“I had a great time there in Detroit for those four years,” said Fairley, who'll face his former Lions teammates Sunday in St. Louis. “It was a great time with all of the coaching staff, with Kris [Kocurek] as the D-line coach and then with the guys that were in the D-line room, we had a great time.”
Fairley never played in every game during any regular season for the Lions. He ended up playing in 46 games for Detroit, making 98 tackles along with 13.5 sacks, four forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries.
He was often criticized about his weight (too heavy) and his consistency (that he didn’t have any) during his time with the Lions.
When asked if there was anything he’d change about his time in Detroit, he pointed to his consistency on the field.
“Like I always say, just play more consistent when I was there,” Fairley said. “Week in and week out.”
The weight is a different situation altogether. When Fairley signed with St. Louis, Rams coach Jeff Fisher said he told Fairley he was too light. This was a marked contrast to when he was in Detroit and ended up hiring a personal chef last season to prepare his meals and keep him from ordering and eating junk food.
He still has a personal chef and he said he’s at 281 pounds, one of the slimmest weights of his career. He has been more of a rotational tackle with the Rams, although he’s played more than 30 snaps every game the past four weeks. He has not missed a game this season and has 24 tackles and half a sack.
Fisher said Fairley has changed his diet and his lifestyle and has become “a really effective player for us and a great teammate, shows up every day -- there’s no issues.”
His old Lions teammates have noticed Fairley’s weight loss as well. That was the first thing Calvin Johnson said about him -- that and he’s dropping into coverage more than he did with the Lions. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford pointed out his weight loss and said it'll be good to see him, but he hopes "I don't see him too much.”
Fairley seemed to be looking forward to connecting with his old teammates, too.
“We’re going to have a good time when I go up against those guys,” Fairley said. “It’ll be fun.”