Up next: No. 1 pick ready to return for Lions

The best and deepest position unit on the Detroit Lions' defense just got deeper and better. By the time the 49ers roll into Ford Field Sunday for a key early NFC showdown, rookie defensive tackle Nick Fairley could be playing on most passing downs.

"For the limited amount of work he's had, the kid's got it," defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch said of Fairley. "You can see why he's here, you can see his ability. You can see that he's going to give us something."

Fairley, the 13th pick in this year's NFL draft, still has the surgical screws in the left foot he broke Aug. 1.

He began practicing last week and by the end of the week was working with the first defense in the two-minute drill.

He will not unseat either starter – Ndamukong Suh or Corey Williams – nor will he be ahead of Sammie Hill. But the Lions feel like they can use him on passing downs. Andre Fluellen would be the odd man out in the four-man rotation.

"I looked out there and I said, 'Now that's the way life's supposed to be,'" defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham said after watching Fairley work with the first unit.

"That's the way it's supposed to be," Cunningham continued. "And I've had a history of having some really outstanding defensive linemen in my career and when I looked out there, boy, I'm still alive, I'm sure, because sometimes you dream about those things."

Fairley, the Lombardi Award winner from Auburn, has been chomping at the bit to get started.

"Came here, they told me what I was going to do at practice, I was like, 'Man, can I get the green light?'" Fairley said. "But it's feeling good. I feel like I'm real close and just waiting to hear go and I'm ready to go."

Lineup watch

The Lions signed veteran defensive back Vincent Fuller to fill a couple of holes.
Fuller, who played the previous six seasons in Tennessee, where he played previously for Lions coach Jim Schwartz, will provide some insurance at both safety and nickel back.

Starting strong safety Amari Spievey has been battling a hamstring injury and backup Erik Coleman will be out indefinitely with an ankle injury. Veteran John Wendling, primarily a special teams ace, was the lone backup going into the week. So Fuller can help there.

More important, he will shore up a couple of holes on special teams. Coleman was the team's leading special teams tackler, and wide receiver Rashied Davis, a gunner, missed his third straight game with a foot injury. Fuller will fill in for Coleman on special teams; cornerback Anthony Madison was signed to be a short-term fix for Davis.

Under the radar

Slowly but surely, running back Keiland Williams is carving out a niche in the Lions' run game.

The Lions are using him in short-yardage situations and when they are backed up inside their own 5-yard line.

"With Mikel (Leshoure) out and not having that bigger back, he gives you kind of a north-south downhill runner, and the other thing I like about him is that he's pretty good in the protection game," offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. "He missed training camp, so he's kind of been picking it up on the fly, but now that he's had a month or so in our offense, he understands what we're doing and starting to develop. He's got an all-around capability now."

Jahvid Best continues to be the main back. Maurice Morris was out of the rotation the last three weeks, but he's climbing back into the picture. Jerome Harrison, right now, is the odd man out.

Player notes

--- CB Aaron Berry, who opened the season as the starting nickel back, continues to be hampered by a groin injury. Brandon McDonald has taken over the nickel back duties.

--- OT Jacques McClendon was released off the 53-man roster to make room for Vincent Fuller, but he was re-signed to the practice squad.

--- WR Owen Spencer was released from the practice squad.

--- DT Ndamukong Suh's sack total (two) is well off his 10-sack pace of a year ago, but he's not stressing it. "Any competitive defensive lineman wants a lot of sacks and it's unfortunate that we are down on our numbers, but we understand we've done some good things," Suh said. "One way to measure us to see the things we've done in the backfield, causing pressure and making quarterbacks loft balls up that lead to interceptions. But by all means, we want to get back to sacking the quarterback."

--- FS Louis Delmas hasn't missed a game, and only a couple of defensive snaps, despite playing through a couple of painful injuries. A hip pointer slowed him in Weeks 2 and 3, and the last two he's battled through an abdominal injury. Delmas has only missed two games in his first two-and-a-quarter seasons.

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