Saturday, August 23, 2014

Nick Fairley. Player or joke?

The Detroit Lions have a defensive tackle named Nick Fairley. He was a first round pick by the Lions out of Auburn in 2011 -- 13th overall. Fairley had participated on a national championship team during his tenure at Auburn, and some projected him as the overall #1 pick in the draft when he "came out" after his junior year. The dude could be a force on a defensive line. Alas, at the NFL combine, it was discovered Fairley wasn't nearly as tall, or didn't weigh as much as he had been advertised while at Auburn. Weight can go up and down, but height? Not likely. The pro scouts are sticklers for that sort of thing at their annual meat market. So he fell to 13th. Not an all bad deal. Fairley would sign a 4-year rookie contract for $10 million with the Lions, with a huge signing bonus thrown in.

Since then, Fairley's play, and behavior, has certainly been questionable. There are times when he will make outstanding plays on the field. Yet there are others when he seems to revert to the goon philosophy shared with his linemate Ndamukong Suh. Both have become somewhat infamous for cheap shots, late hits, and other thuggery over the last few years.

Fairley's also had his brushes with the law. Possession of marijuana on one occasion. On another, DUI, fleeing and eluding, reckless driving, having an open container of alcohol, and no proof of insurance will typically get a cop's attention after finally making a traffic stop. The average citizen would have had his/her car impounded and gone straight to jail. Do not pass Go, and forget collecting the $200. But Fairley was/is a multi-millionaire pro athlete, so most of this was quietly swept under the rug, which is pretty much standard procedure in this day and age. Only the average schmos get slapped with years of probation, wearing a GPS/alcohol tether, driver's license yanked, blowing and dropping for a year or two, community service, whatever else the courts can dream up to milk their wallets/purses dry and otherwise make their lives a living hell for as long as they can. But not Fairley. He was quickly back playing for the Lions.

Fast forward to the present. It's no big secret Fairley has a weight problem. Sure, by definition, NFL defensive tackles have to be somewhat in the behemoth category to even play the position. Going against offensive linemen that typically weigh over 300 pounds isn't exactly an easy job. I dare say Barney Fife or Jimmy Fallon types would find life very difficult indeed as an NFL defensive tackle.

But like most any job not being a sumo wrestler or a contestant on The Biggest Loser, being too fat can be detrimental to one's chosen profession. And Fairley definitely qualifies. His big gut hangs way over his waist. Yes, this is more weight to grapple with those huge offensive guards -- but somebody please explain to me how 40-50 pounds of blubber around the midsection can make any athlete more effective.

The Lions front office themselves once said, rather politically correctly, that Fairley needed to "shift" some of his weight. In other words, get rid of the huge belly and start developing some muscle elsewhere. But Fairley hasn't.

You know what's truly comical? Fairley blames his recent weight gain on eating too much. Well, no kidding Nick. We would have never guessed. This man doesn't eat a few wings -- he evidently eats the whole hen house -- eggs, feathers, bones and all.

[Here's a tip. If you're ever in a position to take Fairley out to dinner -- make sure it's at one of those $10 all you can eat joints. Or even $20. In a real restaurant, he'll likely cost you a house payment before the feeding frenzy is over. Not recommended.]

It was also laughable how Fairley recently went into pout mode when he didn't get all the reps as a starter. While the rest of the defensive linemen were busy with their coaches on the field and at meetings trying to get better as a team -- poor abused Nick stood off to the side with his lower lip protruding not quite as far as his gut -- but still in a 3rd grade "everybody hates me and no fair" demeanor.

Is it any wonder even the Lions, long not exactly known for front-office genius, to say the least, didn't pick up the option on Fairley's 5th year?

Fairley's playing out his contract this year. Maybe he'll "shift" some weight, avoid further trouble on the field or off, and be a force on the D line. He might even actually, gasp, show some maturity. The dude's 26. If it doesn't come pretty soon, then it's never going to happen. He could develop into a star player, or keep on being a joke where only Lions' fans fail to grasp the punch line.

But just to be on the safe side, keep him in the weight room, and away from the henhouse. Couldn't hurt.....

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