Fairley’s maturity showing through success

ALLEN PARK, Mich. – Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley was arrested twice during the offseason, once for allegedly driving 100 mph while under the influence of alcohol back in his hometown of Mobile, Ala.

He was fortunate there was no tragic outcome like the one early Saturday morning involving Dallas Cowboys practice-squad player Jerry Brown Jr.

Brown was killed in a car accident where he was a passenger in a vehicle driven by teammate Josh Brent, who allegedly was drunk.

Fairley, 24, says he has learned from his own mistakes, but the Brown/Brent incident was a harsh reminder of what can happen.

“It was an eye-opener,” Fairley said. “Just look at it and learn from it.”

Fairley’s future appeared to be on the line following his offseason trouble. One more similar incident might have been the end of his days in Detroit.

He had displayed his considerable potential at times on the field during an injury-plagued rookie year, but a lack of consistency was maddening for the coaching staff and anyone who watched him.

There were legitimate questions about whether the 6-foot-4, 298-pound Fairley might end up wasting all his talent.

But he has put those concerns to rest, at least for the time being, over the past few weeks. Some much-needed maturity is showing through in his success.

“You mature every year, every game,” Fairley said. “I think if you’re out there more and being able to play, you mature as a player.

“Maturing off the field, yes, I’d say I have, making smarter decisions and better choices.”

The Lions have decided to shut down Fairley’s mentor, veteran defensive tackle Corey Williams, for the season because of ongoing knee problems.

Williams, who has missed four of the past five games and six overall, was placed on injured reserve, the club announced Wednesday.

That makes Fairley’s status for Sunday’s game against Arizona that much more important.

Fairley, who has replaced Williams in the starting lineup the past five games, didn’t practice Wednesday because of a shoulder injury sustained in the last game.

“Really can’t say,” Fairley said when asked about his chances to play this week. “I’ll get with the doctor this week and try to get it back … so I can be ready to go.”

Fairley, a first-round draft pick in 2011, has developed into one of the league’s most productive defensive tackles over the past month.

He has four sacks and a total of 23 tackles the past five games. The Lions are 0-5 during that stretch, but it’s certainly not a reflection on Fairley.

“Nick has emerged and has played well,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “It’s a good sign for our defensive line, it’s a good sign for our defense.”

Fairley now has 5 ½ sacks for the season, which is tied with teammate Ndamukong Suh for the third-most in the NFL by a defensive tackle. Cincinnati’s Geno Atkins has 10 ½ and Chicago’s Henry Melton has six.

The Fairley/Suh duo inside has been one of the few bright spots for the Lions during this losing streak.

“We feed off each other,” Fairley said. “He’s more of a power-type guy. I’ve got a little power, too. He’s got speed. I’ve got speed.

“He might get a double-team one time, I get a double-team (another time). The way we look at it, whenever one of us gets a one-on-one, we’ve got to win it.”

Fairley has been winning a lot of them lately. He’s a young guy who made some mistakes, but he seems to be on the right path now.

EXTRA POINTS

Suh, on being called for a late hit on Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers: “It must be nice to be a quarterback in this league. If you go back and look at the play, I was held. So if I was late, there’s a reason why I was late.”

… Suh, on whether he got fined for the play: “Today’s Wednesday, I have nothing in my locker (from the league).”

… Suh, on a story in which an anonymous teammate supposedly criticized him: “You know where my locker is if you got something to say to me. In my heart of hearts, I really don’t think it’s true.”

… Quarterback Matthew Stafford, on suggestions he’s playing injured: “I’m not injured.”

… Coach Jim Schwartz, on putting Williams on IR: “Very difficult decision. He’s an extremely tough player who’s played through a lot of injuries and a lot of pain. You could always count on him. It tells you a little bit about how his knee has been. It just got to the point it was the best decision to shut him down for his future and our ability to put a team on the field.”

… To take Williams’ roster spot, the Lions re-signed defensive tackle Andre Fluellen, who was the odd-man-out up front when the final cuts were made before the season.