Nick Fairley‘s 2017 season is over before it started, and his career could be in jeopardy.
The New Orleans Saints placed the defensive lineman on the reserve/non-football-injury list, the team announced Monday.
The move comes after Fairley consulted with multiple doctors regarding a heart condition he’s played with since entering the NFL in 2011.
Earlier this month, coach Sean Payton announced that Fairley was seeking a third opinion on whether he should continue his playing career.
“He’s gotten two professional opinions,” Payton said at the time. “The first one was one that advised that he shouldn’t play football again. The second opinion was a little different, and he’s getting a third opinion or he’s already gotten a third opinion, we’re waiting on that opinion.
“The things we know are this, it’s obviously something significant and serious that we’ve got to pay attention to, obviously both for Nick and for the club. So we’re hopeful and yet we’re guarded because of the type of condition that we’re talking about.”
In the short term, the news is a blow to the Saints who signed the 29-year-old to a four-year, $28 million contract this offseason to be an anchor in the middle of their defensive line. Losing Fairley weakens an already shallow front seven.
In the long view, the condition could threaten the rest of Fairley’s career. The heart issue was flagged during Fairley’s combine workout in 2011, but he was still drafted with the No. 13 overall pick by the Detroit Lions. In six seasons, he’s compiled 170 tackles and 20.5 sacks. Fairley started all 16 games last year for the Saints and earned his best season, with 43 tackles and 6.5 sacks.
Fairley will miss the 2017 season. Whether he plays another down in the NFL remains to be seen.