Injuries could mean larger role for Fauria

ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Joseph Fauria’s role was small, his production big and popularity huge through the first month of his NFL career. He scored two touchdowns in his first three games, danced to 'N Sync, ended up getting a mention on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and was a useful red-zone target.

Then, for two weeks, he disappeared. One ball -- and it wasn’t even a credited target to him -- thrown in his vicinity. It’s because his role as a red-zone target, while giving him chances at touchdowns, didn’t really call for him to play all that much.

That’s might change.

Tight end Tony Scheffler, who most approximates the role Fauria would likely fill in the Detroit Lions' offense, suffered a concussion last weekend against Green Bay. It is his third concussion in four seasons, and the symptoms were not known until Tuesday.

“The concern with Scheff is that he didn’t manifest symptoms until two days after,” coach Jim Schwartz said. “Even Monday he wasn’t having headaches and some of those other symptoms that we see. But when he came back to work Tuesday, we saw it. We’ve seen it from other people in the past.

“Every one of them is different. That is why it is so hard to diagnose. It’s such a hard situation to put timetables on guys coming back and stuff like that. Yeah, any time you get a concussion, whether it’s your first, whether it’s your third. Whether you bounce back quickly, whether you don’t, it’s always a concern.”

Scheffler hasn’t practiced this week, nor has he been seen in the locker room. If Scheffler can’t play, a combination of Fauria and more three-wide-receiver packages would compensate for Scheffler’s absence.

All season, Fauria has waited. He has learned from Scheffler and from starting tight end Brandon Pettigrew. He called himself “extremely lucky” to have those two players to learn from because they have been encouraging.

And now, if one of them isn’t going to be able to play, Fauria will likely see those snaps.

“I think Fauria’s role increases, yes,” offensive coordinator Scott Linehan said. “He’s going to play more than he has to this point. And he’s on progress to do really good things for us, too.

“He’s a young player but he’s certainly a guy that has played really good football for us and will play more snaps for us as we move forward.”

The past two weeks of inaction gave Fauria a chance to figure things out a little bit more. There was some frustration, as one would expect when a player makes an impact early. But Fauria realized he was still learning everything associated with the NFL -- and also learning new positions to play as a tight end. He spent the past two weeks working on consistency, because he realizes that will turn him from a player who sees chances in the red zone and on third down into a guy who can play every snap if need be.

He wants to be a player quarterback Matthew Stafford can lean on. And he wants to be more than just a guy who can make plays in the red zone.

“Scoring touchdowns doesn’t hurt me,” Fauria said. “But when it comes down to being where the majority of plays are, which is the other 80 yards, yeah, I want to prove that and that I belong out there and show that I can hold my own and be trusted.”

With making more plays comes more trust. And he can only do that by receiving more plays. For Fauria, a touchdown-celebrating red-zone target, that could be about to happen.