They oddly declined to pick up his fifth-year option for 2015 -- even though cutting him after the season would have cost the same price -- hoping it would kick him in the pants. The move appeared to work as he came to OTAs 27 pounds lighter in June.
Since then, the 26-year-old began putting the weight back on -- 10 pounds at the start of camp -- a move the coaching staff originally said it encouraged because 295 pounds was deemed too light.
Then came this week's note that the defensive tackle was apparently demoted in favor of veteran C.J. Mosley.
The move appeared as another "Motivate Fairley" tactic and was dismissed as significant by coach Jim Caldwell.
However, MLive.com's Kyle Meinke, citing multiple unnamed sources, reports that Fairley has continued to pack on the pounds, and the weight could be contributing to his lessened role.
The crux of the Lions' defense is a potent defensive line making up for an impotent back end. Fairley's role in that plan is vital, as he has the talent to take advantage of all the attention paid to Ndamukong Suh.
Whether the current weight, motivation or some other factor is holding Fairley back, it's not a good sign for a defense already rife with question marks at every other position.