Although the Detroit Lions continue to downplay the practice return of defensive tackle Nick Fairley, the rookie will make his debut Monday night against the Chicago Bears, according to a source familiar with the situation.
The 12th overall pick of the NFL draft, Fairley broke his foot in training camp, causing him to miss the entire preseason and the team's first four games. Lions coach Jim Schwartz sidestepped questions regarding Fairley's potential availability earlier in the week. But according to the source, Fairley has told friends and family -- who are traveling to Detroit for the game -- that he expects to participate in a situational capacity.
Fairley returned to the practice field on Tuesday and participated in position drills, according to multiple reports.
Schwartz told the Detroit media that even if Fairley is healthy enough to play against the Bears on Monday night it's unlikely he'll make a significant contribution.
"I think when we do get him back, there will be a progression to that," Schwartz told the Detroit media. "You're talking about a guy that played in zero preseason games, and you always have a progression with those. We won't go from zero to 100 without taking some steps along the way."
A 2010 winner of the Lombardi Award, Fairley was considered one of the leaders on defense for Auburn's BCS championship team. Fairley contributed 60 tackles for Auburn last season, and led the team with 24 tackles for lost yardage and 11.5 sacks.
Michael C. Wright covers the Bears for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN 1000.