ALLEN PARK — Nick Fairley is not your typical NFL athlete.
He is a throwback.
And that’s just fine with Lions defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham. As long as Fairley, who starts at defensive tackle next to Ndamukong Suh, performs consistently at a high level.
“He’s got a body, old school football,’’ Cunningham said. “There’s a bunch of guys in the hallway (at the Lions practice facility) with their pictures up there, those guys all look like him. There’s nothing ever going to change with his body, but he is strong there’s no question about that. He’s fast, he just needs to get back into the groove and I hope this is the week. Although I say that, he’s had some good games this year so I’m not that worried about it, he’s going to be fine.’’
Fairley will start for the fourth straight game when the Lions (3-2) play the Browns (3-2) at Cleveland on Sunday.
During daily practices Fairley lines up for stretches with his teammates, but does not participate fully. It seems that belly may get in the way.
“He’s old school, he just gets up and plays,’’ Cunningham said. “He is truly a throwback football player. ...
"I remember in 1992 or ’93 I’m making a correction at half-time in the locker room and Greg Townsend, who had about 130 sacks (actually 109.5) in the league, played for the Raiders. He’s blowing smoke in my face. I said, ‘Could we not do that right now?’
“He goes, ‘Coach, I’ve got to have my cigar right now.’
“When I see Nick it reminds me of those days,’’ Cunningham said. “He just lines up and plays. He’s got a great personality, he just needs to finish on some things and he will.’’
Fairley appeared to have lost a few pounds before training camp, but looks like he’s gained it back. He’s officially listed at 298 pounds. Cunningham wouldn’t reveal Fairley’s current weight, but said it’s always a pound or two from where it should be. He checks on it every Friday. And while he admits he’s not a doctor, he said he can see that Fairley is stronger.
“Nick played really well early in the season then he kind of fell off, he got hurt a little bit,’’ Cunningham said. “And this last week he got better and he’s had a really good week of practice, so I think everything will be OK. People don’t realize those big guys get pounded on every single play. ...’’
Fairley missed the second game of the season with a shoulder injury.
“So these guys get beat up and that’s what happened to Nick. He came in in pretty good shape, but I think the injury he had, he worried a little bit about it and now I think he’s over it, so I’m looking forward to seeing this game. I think he’ll be really ready to play.”