A source close to Fairley told ESPN.com senior NFL writer John Clayton that Fairley will miss three to four weeks.
The team says in a statement that he will miss a "significant portion" of training camp, but did not specify the type of surgery. The source also told Clayton it was not for a Lisfranc injury.
Lions coach Jim Schwartz said on Twitter that Fairley will have to make up the practice time he'll miss in the classroom.
"Tough news today for Nick. Obviously he won't be able to practice, so he'll have to put in a lot of class time until he's back on the field," Schwartz wrote.
Fairley, the Lombardi Trophy winner at national champion Auburn last season, was injured Monday and in a walking cast a day later after X-rays showed no significant damage.
He was sent to Charlotte, N.C., for further evaluation Wednesday morning, and Dr. Bob Anderson performed the surgery. The team did not provide details on the procedure.
Fairley had 11½ sacks last season and a total of 24 stops behind the line for Auburn.
The Lions have finally started to roll in the Motor City, closing last season with four wins and a 6-10 record two years after being the NFL's first 0-16 team. Suh was a big reason, and Detroit chose to beef up perhaps its strongest unit by drafting Fairley.
His progress, already slowed by the lockout, is now on hold again.
Detroit has already had to put defensive back Alphonso Smith and offensive tackle Jeff Backus on the active/non-football injury list. Smith broke his left foot, and Backus is recovering from a pectoral injury.
Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.