The 2011 first-round draft pick has been scrutinized for two offseason arrests as well as praised for on-the-field dominance during the offseason program.
Although the feedback has greatly differed, perhaps they aren’t completely isolated from one another.
Maybe the weight and film rooms have offered safe guarding from the outside trouble he was facing.
“In the offseason he was set back by off-the-field things,” said head coach Jim Schwartz. “But his haven so to speak has been the weight room and the field and the meeting rooms. He’s done a good job in all of those areas. He needs to make sure that the off-the-field stuff and injuries – and some injuries you can’t do anything about – but that that stuff doesn’t keep him from being the player that we know he can be. He’s got a great personality and he works out hard and he’s had a good spring.”
Fairley’s conditioning may be the most immediate improvement for observers, as he can often be seen hustling from sideline-to-sideline to make plays. His improved conditioning allows his natural talent to become more evident.
His natural talent is cause for high hopes and expectations alike.
“I have very high expectations for Nick,” said General Manager Martin Mayhew. “He’s had an outstanding offseason out here on the field. Not so good off the field but he’s been outstanding in practice here. He’s worked his butt off, he’s in great condition… he has tremendous, tremendous talent.”
Whether Fairley’s off-the-field trouble has resulted in on-the-field motivation is largely speculation – especially considering the second-year pro has yet to address the media since the incidents – but the general concept of a player turning the corner after a wakeup call is feasible.
“If a player is able to look back and say ‘that was my wakeup call and that led me to have a successful career’, then maybe you’ve made something positive out of it,” said Schwartz. “I don’t know if you can ever say it was a good thing that it happened but the good can come after it happened. We talked about guys making mistakes and everybody makes mistakes… if they learn their lesson and that’s the wakeup call, so to speak, if that changes the way they conduct themselves and they are able to have a successful career because of it, then at least you turned something positive out of it.”
As Fairley attempts to leave his off-the-field issues in the past, he can greatly accelerate the process with his on-the-field performance.
It’s interesting to thing that all of the offseason criticism could result in regular season production.
Either way, it is safe to say that most Lions fans will happily leave all issues in the past if Fairley is able to bring down Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers a few times in 2012.