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Lions thinking long term in approach to Fairley recovery

Nick Fairley continues to make slow and steady progress from foot surgery, but a source close to the player says chances are "slim" the defensive tackle plays for the Lions on Sunday against the Cowboys.

Fairley returned to practice Friday for the first time since Aug. 1, but the Lions aren't about to rush back a rookie who signed a $10 million contract prior to the season.

"He's working hard to get back on the field, and I think that he's going to play a lot of football for us this year. And when he gets back he'll be ready," Lions coach Jim Schwartz told WXYT-FM via the Detroit Free Press. "And when he'll be ready, he'll be back. I think I'll just leave it there."

Speculation about Fairley's debut increased when ESPN reported during its "Monday Night Football" telecast that the team was "hopeful" Fairley would debut on Sunday in a limited pass-rushing role.

Talk of Fairley's return appears premature at this point, however.

"He's making progress, he's improving, and we're not going to put him on the field before he's ready," Schwartz said.

Smart move by Schwartz and the Lions, who don't want to mess around with a player they consider a building block in their big picture. Foot injuries can be tricky business -- just ask Antonio Gates.

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