One week ago, the reason for Saints defensive tackle Nick Fairley's absence from offseason team workouts was revealed. The 29-year-old Fairley had a heart condition that could potentially end his career. Since then, speculation and overreaction has run rampant through the media and fans alike. Coach Sean Payton spoke to the media after the team's practice on Thursday, and did add clarification to recent events.
Fairley was diagnosed with an enlarged heart during his pre-draft physical in 2011. The condition did not prevent doctor's from clearing Fairley, the 2010 SEC defensive player of the year, from continuing his football career in the NFL. The Detroit Lions weren't frightened off either, taking the dominating defensive lineman from Auburn with the 13th pick in the 1st round. After four seasons with Detroit, and one with the Rams, Fairley signed a one-year contract with the Saints. He had career highs in tackles (43), and sacks (6.5) in 2016 with New Orleans, along with starting all 16 games for the first time. Upon hitting free agency this offseason, Fairley chose to re-sign with New Orleans, turning his success into a 4-year, $30 million dollar deal.
Considering that Fairley's enlarged heart condition was known previously, and probably something that he's had most of his life, perhaps it was something new that concerned doctor's during a routine physical he took in March. The condition was serious enough that Fairley was advised to retire, causing him to seek a second opinion. Reports have said that the second opinion on Fairley were 'hopeful, but guarded' and that he could resume his playing career, which brings us to seeking word from a third examination.
There are a number of different heart conditions that can be medicated, causing little disruption in a person's lifestyle. A consistent criticism of Fairley throughout his career has been "taking plays off", along with a perceived lack of conditioning. A common symptom of many heart conditions, including enlarged heart, is that the individual is quick to fatigue. Heart issues are also something often hereditary. Remember that Fairley's mother, Paula Rogers, died tragically four days before the Saints played Kansas City last October. She had complained of chest pains, and died suddenly after a brief hospital stay. Paula Rogers was only 51 years old.
There is certainly much more at stake than just the continuation of a young man's football career. Nick Fairley is just 29. He has siblings and people that care for him. A medical condition that is serious enough to seek a THIRD opinion just to continue a playing career is concerning enough. We aren't just talking about a knee or shoulder injury that could affect quality of life. This is far greater.
Fairley's teammates and organization are concerned about their friend, more so than the talented player that he is. Remember that this is football, and there are some things more important. Our thoughts and prayers are with Nick Fairley as he wrestles with perhaps the hardest decision of his young life.