Steelers give Terry Fair chance

<b>PITTSBURGH -- </b> The Steelers dipped into the Detroit Lions organization once again to sign injury-plagued cornerback Terry Fair to a one-year, minimum-wage contract.<br><br> Out of football since the third game of the 2002 season, the 5-foot-9, 193-pound Fair hopes to resume his once-promising career in Pittsburgh.

Terry Fair, who'll turn 28 on July 20, was the 20th pick of the 1998 draft by the Lions after starting four years at right cornerback for the University of Tennessee.

In his pro debut at Green Bay, Fair returned a kickoff 101 yards to join Tamarick Vanover as the only players to return kicks for touchdowns in their first game. Fair then became the only player since the NFL-AFL merger to return two kicks for touchdowns in his first four games when he returned a kickoff 105 yards against Tampa Bay. He went on to lead the league in kickoff returns and was named the first alternate kick returner for the Pro Bowl squad. Fair was also named to the Pro Football Weekly all-rookie team as both a cornerback and kick returner.

According to the Lions' media guide, Fair "was playing his best football" when he broke his hand in a 1999 off-the-field mishap and missed the last five games of the season.

Fair made 15 starts in 2000 and 12 starts in 2001 before breaking his right foot Dec. 9. The injury was slow to heal and in April he opted against a second surgery that would've forced him out of the 2002 season. Instead, Fair had the foot put in a cast and missed the start of training camp.

Fair was activated from the PUP list for the Lions' Aug. 24 preseason game against the visiting Steelers. According to the Detroit Free Press, "Fair protested, apparently because he did not feel he was ready for game action."

Fair played against the Steelers, but was released in the final cut by team president Matt Millen. The Free Press called it "a major surprise."

The Carolina Panthers outbid the Green Bay Packers that week for Fair's services, and he played in the first three games of the 2002 season before breaking his right ankle. He was placed on injured reserve and hasn't played since.

"It is obviously very disappointing," Carolina Coach John Fox said at the time. "He was coming along and was somebody we were going to be counting on as the season wore on."

Fox was asked if the ankle injury was related to the foot injury from the previous season.

"No," Fox said. "It is completely different."

Fair's contract with the Panthers expired at the end of the season and he didn't sign with another team. He was given tryouts by the New York Jets last September and the Lions last October.

In his five-year NFL career, Fair has made 48 starts (mainly at right cornerback) and intercepted seven passes. He has a career kickoff-return average of 25.8 yards and a career punt-return average of 7.2 yards. He becomes the sixth former Lions player on the Steelers' roster.

Steel City Insider Top Stories