When the Detroit Lions declined to pick up the fifth-year option in defensive tackle Nick Fairley's contract earlier this offseason, general manager Martin Mayhew made it known that motivation played a big part in his decision. Fairley may have recorded a career-high 6.0 sacks in 2013, but the Lions want more consistency out of Fairley going forward, both on and off the field. That's why they put him in a contract year instead of picking up the option for 2015.
So far, the Lions' ploy to motivate Fairley seems to be working. According to the Free Press' Dave Birkett, Fairley is down to 295 pounds, which is "about 27 pounds lighter than he finished last year." Fairley had worked to get in better shape last offseason, but he put on quite a bit of weight during the season. Now, though, he's close to his college weight, and he's focused on staying there throughout the year.
"I eat a lot of Subway and that kind of gets me down to where I want to be," Fairley said. "When I got away from eating Subway I got to eating back fast food and I got away from it, got back to like McDonald’s and fast food and that kind of put some weight back on me." [...]
"For this year, I’m just going to stick through it throughout the whole year," he said. "I’m trying to stay away from fast food and fried stuff and trying to cut out all my soda. I kind of got lazy with it (last) year, I would say."
That last sentence sums up why the Lions decided to not pick up Fairley's 2015 option. With him now in a contract year, there's extra motivation to not be lazy and there's extra incentive to stay in shape. Hopefully this will result in him living up to his potential on the field, and hopefully he will help the Lions' defensive line become a truly dominant force in 2014.
Fairley, by the way, is back at the Lions' OTAs after previously being absent because of a procedure. Birkett reports that Fairley had sleep apnea surgery, but he now appears to be ready to get back on the field.
Ran into Nick Fairley after OTAs today. It really is amazing the difference in size. Looks in terrific shape and feeling great after surgery
— Tim Twentyman (@ttwentyman) June 2, 2014
Between getting in shape, addressing his sleep apnea problem and the extra motivation of being in a contract year, this is really Fairley's best chance to take his game to another level. If he's able to do that, the Lions may actually have a tough time affording him next offseason, but I suppose that would be better than simply letting him walk after another disappointing year.