Nick Fairley DL DET 2 Months

Lions DT Nick Fairley is recovering from an operation to "help with his sleep apnea."

The operation was disclosed in mid-May, but the nature of it was not. From a football standpoint, it's good news. Now down to 295 pounds, Fairley is getting his ducks in a row as he attempts to go off in a contract year.

Nick Fairley DL DET 2 Months

Lions DT Nick Fairley slimmed down to 295 pounds this offseason.

That is 27 lighter than he finished last season. The Lions chose not to exercise Fairley's fifth-year option this offseason partially because of his weight issues and partially to send a message to the young defensive lineman. It seems the message got through. Fairley is currently recovering for an undisclosed operation. If he gets healthy, he could be primed for a huge, contract-year season.

Nick Fairley DL DET 2 Months

Lions DT Nick Fairley is recovering from an undisclosed operation, and not participating in OTAs.

Coach Jim Caldwell would only disclose that Fairley is dealing with a "medical issue." Perhaps he had an appendectomy. The news comes three weeks after the Lions declined to exercise Fairley's fifth-year team option. Issues like this are the precise reason why Fairley is being forced to play out his rookie deal. Frequently injured and out of shape, it's unclear when Fairley will be ready to return.

Nick Fairley DL DET 4 Months

The Lions will not exercise DT Nick Fairley's fifth-year option for 2015.

It means he'll be an unrestricted free agent next offseason. According to the team's official website, GM Martin Mayhew wants Fairley motivated for 2015, and doesn't believe he's a "$5.5 million player right now." The No. 13 overall pick of the 2011 draft, Fairley has dealt with weight and injury issues. A consistent and healthy 2014 could result in a monster payday.

Nick Fairley DL DET 5 Months

MLive.com's Kyle Meinke believes Lions DT Nick Fairley's weight had reached "at least" 320 by late last season.

Meinke observed Fairley playing with a "sizable belly." Fairley is listed at 6'3/291 on the Lions' website and measured 6-foot-3 7/8, 291 at the 2011 Combine. GM Martin Mayhew recently reiterated he wants Fairley's work ethic to improve. "I'd like to see his commitment to the offseason program improve, and see him on a consistent basis," said Mayhew. "It's voluntary, but if he's not training with us, I'd like to see him training somewhere."

Nick Fairley DL DET 6 Months

Lions GM Martin Mayhew says DT Nick Fairley could stand to "reposition" some weight.

Fairley is listed at 6-foot-3, 291 on the team's official website. The number is fine, but Fairley's belly was noticeably larger than it was just a couple years ago at Auburn. He still had a heck of a 2013 season, starting a career-high 15 games and posting new career-bests in tackles (35) and sacks (6). Fairley has one year left on his rookie deal, though the Lions hold a 2015 option.

Nick Fairley DL DET 7 Months

Lions DT Nick Fairley finished his third NFL season with career highs in tackles (35), sacks (6.0), and starts (15), also registering two forced fumbles.

Turning 26 later this month, Fairley turned in a true breakout campaign, finishing No. 15 overall in Pro Football Focus' defensive tackle pass-rush ratings. Teammate Ndamukong Suh was No. 2. Fairley needs to cut down on his penalties -- he was flagged 13 times in 2013 -- but he's already a star. The Lions' defensive line remains the team's primary strength entering the offseason.

Nick Fairley DL DET 10 Months

Lions DT Nick Fairley (shoulder) is inactive for Week 2 at Arizona.

Although he was listed as questionable, Fairley's inactivity is surprising because he practices on Friday. He'll be replaced by Justin Bannan next to Ndamukong Suh. In addition to Fairley, Detroit's Week 2 inactives are QB Kellen Moore, RB Mikel Leshoure, S Don Carey, G Leroy Harris, RT Jason Fox, and WR Ryan Broyles.

Nick Fairley DL DET 10 Months

Lions DT Nick Fairley (shoulder) returned to practice Friday.

Fairley missed practice both Wednesday and Thursday. He's officially listed as questionable, but is on track to play after returning on a limited basis Friday.

Nick Fairley DL DET Apr 19 '13

Teammate Stephen Tulloch is impressed with Lions DT Nick Fairley's offseason.

"He's slim, he's focused, and he's about his business," Tulloch said of Fairley. "He's going into his third year, he's taking a step, he's grown as a player, he's put all that negative stuff behind him, and he's moving forward." According to Tulloch, Fairley talks about going to the Super Bowl "every day." If Fairley can stay healthy and keep his head on straight, he has All-Pro ability.