Fairley's weight loss may signal big things

Nick Fairley

Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley has lost weight -- and that could mean big things for the fourth-year pro.

The Detroit Lions wrapped up their eighth of 10 organized team activity practices on Wednesday and made new defensive coordinator Teryl Austin available to the media.

Here are three notes as they relate to the defensive side of the ball.

Fairley gets fit

Defensive tackle Nick Fairley showed up to camp 30 pounds lighter and has caught the eye of the coaching staff.

The key for the fourth-year pro is maintaining his fitness through the offseason program and into training camp.

"He looks good. He's lost a lot of weight," said Austin. "I think the key will be when he leaves here and then when he comes back in camp if he's still in that great shape with his weight down. It's going to be great for us."

""I think the key will be when he leaves here and then when he comes back in camp if he's still in that great shape with his weight down." - Teryl Austin

The team was strategic in not picking up a club option included in Fairley's rookie deal, making him set to become an unrestricted free agent after this season. The goal was to motivate the highly-talented but inconsistent-performing 26 year old.

Austin, who is still getting to know Fairley and the defense, is hoping for big things.

"I think it will take time to get to know him. Like anything right now, we talk as much as we can," said Austin. "The one thing I don't do is I don't bother guys outside of here. I'm not a big guy like that mothering them because I think we're all professionals. They're grown men, we're grown men, but he's been good when he's been in the building. He's got a great personality. We're just hoping that we get a big year out of him. I think he wants to have a big year as well."

Ansah continues to miss time

Defensive end Ziggy Ansah wasn't expected to participate in OTAs after offseason shoulder surgery, so his absence hasn't caught anyone off guard.

The Lions are moving to a new defensive scheme which will include a more diverse role for Ansah, who will be the team's top ‘open-end' rusher.

"He'll do what we're asking our rush ends to do," said Austin. "He's going to rush, he's going to drop, he's going to move to different positions. He's going to do some different things."

Ansah is entering his second professional season and entered the NFL with relatively limited football experience. Still, there doesn't seem to be any concern with his missed practice time.

"He's going to have some catching up to do," said Austin. "But I believe he's a bright guy. He's been here the whole time, so he's getting it. He's just not getting the actual reps."

Coaches will be receptive to player feedback

The NFL is among the most structured of all professional sports with head coaches commonly running schemes they've experienced success with at previous destinations.

Coaches often inherit players but bring in their own playbook.

Although that isn't necessarily different in Detroit, expect the Lions coaching staff to consider the ideas their players bring to the table.

"As far as player input, I think that's the important thing because we don't play the game," said Austin. "We put the schemes together and we have a structure of how we see our defense. A lot of times, a player will come to you after he's been in it, studied it and say, ‘Hey, is there a way we can do this because this is a little better for all of us out here?' We look at it and if it is, we make the decision and do what they say."

While always considering and sometimes incorporating player's feedback, the Lions can not only get unique perspectives on the effectiveness of their schemes but promote a partnership between player and coach that can be mutually beneficial.

Austin: "I mean, Jim (Caldwell) always talks about intellectual property, they have intellectual property too because they're on the field playing. They're going to come back with some really good feedback sometimes for you and you have to listen to it because if not, then what happens is a lot of times they'll turn you off because they don't want to listen. They'll be like, ‘He doesn't listen to me, why should I listen to him?'"

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