ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) - Nick Fairley was drafted to team with Ndamukong Suh as part of a powerful young defensive front in Detroit.
Now, the Lions are hoping he can help replace Suh after the star defensive tackle was suspended.
"I'm a competitor," Fairley said. "I'm up for any challenge. Any challenge they throw at me, I'm ready for it."
Detroit's defensive line is on the spot this week following Suh's two-game ban for roughing up a Green Bay offensive lineman last week. Although Suh has appealed, the Lions have little choice but to prepare as though he won't be available when they face Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints at the Superdome on Sunday night.
Corey Williams is Detroit's other starter at defensive tackle, but Fairley, Sammie Hill and Andre Fluellen are also capable of contributing. The Lions (7-4) travel to New Orleans in the thick of the NFC playoff race, hoping to bounce back from their Thanksgiving loss to the Packers.
"We do have depth at the defensive tackle position," coach Jim Schwartz said. "Nick Fairley is playing very well, as is Sammie Hill, and Corey Williams is probably playing the best football of his career. So, we're going to be just fine."
Detroit already had a stout defensive front, led by Suh, Williams and defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch, when the Lions picked Fairley with the 13th selection in this year's draft. Fairley won the Lombardi Award while at Auburn, but he hurt his left foot before this season started and didn't play until Oct. 10. He has yet to contribute a sack as a pro, but this weekend could be an opportunity for him in a bigger role.
"He's able to play more snaps now," Schwartz said. "When he's been in the game, he affects the game. He's not a guy that just goes in there and just makes 11. He's been good, but particularly with where we are this week, we need him to step up and make some plays for us."
Vanden Bosch has six sacks this season, and defensive end Cliff Avril has seven. Suh has been a presence on the interior, and the Lions have depth there. Hill is in his third season and Fluellen is in his fourth.
"Most importantly, we want to play for Suh. He wants to be out there as much as anybody else," Fluellen said. "We have to elevate our game to match the game he always brings to the table."
Detroit held up OK against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers until Green Bay pulled away for a 27-15 victory after Suh's ejection. Suh lifted up his right leg and forcibly stepped on Evan Dietrich-Smith's right arm during the third quarter. He also shoved Dietrich-Smith's helmet toward the turf while separating himself from the Green Bay player on the ground.
Now the Lions must face Brees. New Orleans (8-3) is coming off an impressive 49-24 victory over the New York Giants on Monday night.
The Lions are not only without Suh, but they also have some defensive backs recovering from injuries. Louis Delmas and Chris Houston injured their knees against Green Bay. Brandon McDonald hurt a thigh.
Running back Kevin Smith injured his right ankle against the Packers. He was at practice during the portion open to reporters Wednesday, but he was limited.
"After you guys left, I got to do some stuff," Smith said. "I felt pretty good for a Wednesday. At this pace, I'm excited. I'm just rehabbing the heck out of it."
Notes: CB Eric Wright said he had a chance last weekend to see teammate Jerome Harrison. Wright said the running back was "doing well" after surgery in October for a brain tumor. "He's recovering," Wright said. ... The Lions signed DE Keyunta Dawson, signed WR Marcus Harris to the practice squad and put WR Nate Hughes on the practice squad injured reserve list. Hughes has a leg injury.