Lions assistant says he should have seen Nick Fairley issues coming

Brad Biggs

Gunther Cunningham is frustrated when it comes to Nick Fairley.

And the disappointment the Detroit Lions defensive coordinator has is in himself.

Cunningham, speaking to reporters Sunday at the Quicken Loans 400, says he should have spotted trouble coming with Fairley, the Lions’ first-round draft pick from 2011 that has been pinched this offseason for marijuana possession and a DUI. Fairley faces prosecution on both arrests, and also could be disciplined by the NFL.

“The disappointment that I have is that I bogged myself down in so much paperwork that I didn’t see that coming,” Cunningham said, according to George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press. “And I should have seen it. With my experience, I should have understood.”

Cunningham says he has ample experience dealing with players that have issues or are in jeopardy of having issues – players that were worse than Fairley.

“I’ll give you one example, Dan Saleaumua,” Cunningham said, referring to the Lions’ seventh-round pick in 1987 who played in the Pro Bowl as a Chief in 1995. “(The Lions) threw him out. He went to the Pro Bowl for me. Now he has a chain of, I think, 55 drug stores … and he runs them like a football team, and he’s worth a lot of money. We didn’t give up on him.”

Saleaumua was a seventh-round pick of the Lions in 1987 but flourished with the Kansas City Chiefs, where Cunningham coached for a long time.

“Al Davis always put three fingers up,” Cunningham said. “He said, ‘Son, some day you’re going to learn it takes three years how to learn and act to play in this game,’ and he wasn’t wrong. You can’t give up just because a guy takes a wrong turn. You just gotta smack ’em upside the head or you gotta love ’em.

“People always look at me like I’m going to choke ’em all, and sometimes I do. You have to give them a different love sometimes.

Cunningham does just that with Fairley, calling him a “great guy.” Reports are Fairley looked good in camp this spring. The quickest way for Fairley to put a forgettable offseason behind him is to have a breakout season.

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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune

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