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Lions DC: Nick Fairley 'turned a corner' last season

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Many questions face Nick Fairley as the Detroit Lions' defensive tackle enters free agency.

A knee injury that shortened a promising season, an inconsistent start to his career, a team that declined an option on his contract to motivate him, etc.

However, after spending just one season with the former first-round pick, Lions defensive coordinator Teryl Austin came away impressed by how Fairley responded to an August benching and has stayed in shape throughout his rehab.

"As a player you could say, 'I'm going to play hard or I'm going to get in shape' and sometimes when things don't go well you go right back into your old habits," Austin told the team's official website.

"He got injured and he didn't. He kept himself in good shape. He kept his weight down, he worked really hard and if we were fortunate enough to win at Dallas he would have been ready to play a little bit in the next game and so that shows me that he's turned the corner."

The 27-year-old was having his best season before suffering the injury. Often taking advantage of single-teams, Fairley was a potent pocket-pusher and solid against the run.

He could be viewed as a mid-level backup plan for Detroit if Ndamukong Suh walks in free agency.

"I mean I really like Nick and I like Nick as a player," Austin said. "I think he's a really good player. But I think he did, I think he turned a corner."

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