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Former Lions TE Joseph Fauria admits it was a volleyball injury that derailed his NFL career

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No, he didn’t actually trip over his dog.

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Detroit Lions v Arizona Cardinals Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Remember Joseph Fauria, the former Detroit Lions tight end who came to fame after a hot start as an undrafted rookie? In his first six career games, Fauria hauled in five touchdowns and gained national fame with his extravagant dance moves.

But just as fast as his Lions career burgeoned, it crashed and burned. Four weeks into his second season, Fauria suffered a pretty serious non-football injury to his ankle. He would miss the next two months of the season and when he came back, he was never the same. He would only have three more NFL catches in his career before it was all over.

At the time, there was a lot of controversy about this mysterious ankle injury. Rumors were all over the place that Fauria hurt his ankle playing volleyball at a local gym or he was intoxicated when it happened. At the time, Fauria vehemently denied those rumors. Instead, according to Fauria, he hurt himself trying to potty train his new dog, Rufio:

But it has been four years since that injury, and Fauria is ready to come clean. On his new podcast entitled “Figure It Out with Big Joe,” Fauria dropped the quirky story and admitted the rumors were true. He hurt himself playing volleyball with some friends on his day off.

“I hit the [volley]ball at the 10-foot line, and I’m like, ‘Fuck yeah,’” Fauria explains in his detailed story. “But when I come down, I come down on just ankle, left ankle. This most amazing, shocking pain that I’ve never felt in my entire life shoots up my leg, and immediately I’m like, ‘Career’s over.’”

Fauria goes onto explain how he had to sneak out of the gym in the hopes of not being seen or noticed that he was injured, and that’s when he started to formulate the story about his dog.

So why did he lie, not only to the media and fans, but to the Lions organization and head coach Jim Caldwell? Fauria explained that his friends told him he could be out on a lot of money if the Lions found out he hurt himself playing another sport.

“They told me that if the team, the organization, the Lions found out I was playing volleyball and I got hurt playing volleyball, that they could exercise the option of not paying me,” Fauria said.

Oftentimes in NFL contracts, teams create clauses in which they can back out of contracts if the player participates in a risky behavior that results in injury. But Fauria felt confident that a harmless story about a household accident would keep the Lions from going for his wallet.

“Did I want to lie to my head coach? No, but I was thinking about myself,” Fauria admitted.

This is the first time Fauria has come clean about that time in his life, and it’s clear he is still pretty remorseful for how everything played out.

“It’s fucked up, because I had to lie to my quarterback, I had to lie to people,” Fauria said. “It sucked, I didn’t like it.”

The guilt and stress of additional injuries that piled onto his career caused Fauria to suffer from anxiety for the rest of his NFL career, as he bounced from the Cardinals to the Patriots.

Though he recently tried to make one last run at the NFL (he had a tryout with the New York Giants before the 2017 season), it didn’t end up working out for the charismatic athlete.

But Fauria feels he has a new purpose with his podcast and doesn’t seem to be in a bad place anymore

If you want to learn more about Fauria’s experience, he’s very open and candid about the whole thing during his 88-minute podcast. You can listen to the entire thing here. He starts talking about his time with the Lions around the 18-minute mark.