Lions: Excited for healthy Nick Fairley

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- After surgery to repair a broken foot last summer, Detroit Lions nose tackle Nick Fairley couldn't run. He was told to stay off his feet if he watched practice. So with nothing better to do, he hit the weight room with a vengeance.

Over the next two months or so, according to Lions coach Jim Schwartz, Fairley packed an additional 18 pounds of weight on this frame. Speaking Wednesday at the NFC coaches breakfast, Schwartz said it was muscle, not the result of inactivity, and used it as an illustration of the kind of drive outside observers might not have seen in him last season.

"It's very difficult to gain a high ratio of muscle," Schwartz said. "And he did it."

We've spent plenty of time discussing the Lions' successful effort to keep their core together this offseason. But I would imagine they're no less excited about the prospects of a full and healthy season from Fairley, their first-round draft pick last year. Fairley pushed himself through 10 regular-season games after his foot healed, but provided only glimpses of what the Lions hope they'll get regularly in 2012.

A perfect example: Fairley started the Lions' Week 13 game against the New Orleans Saints. In 17 plays, he had four tackles, including two for a loss, and one sack against the Saints' pair of All-Pro guards, Carl Nicks and Jahri Evans. But soreness in the foot forced him to the sideline thereafter.

"I think that was probably our best glimpse of him," Schwartz said. "But he did something just about every day in practice that makes you turn your head and say, 'Holy Mackeral.' There's a big difference between being healed from the standpoint that he wasn't going to go out and break his foot again and re-injure, and being completely healed. …

"There's going to be some residuals from that. The good news is in my experience in players that have had those in the past, you get through a season and then it's behind you."