Nick Fairley was in Houston and, of all things, in the middle of a workout when general manager Martin Mayhew called him one morning this spring to tell him the Detroit Lions were not going to exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie contract.

While the news seemed odd to many – Fairley, a starter and key member of the Lions’ defensive line, was coming off a career-best six-sack season, and the option, which is guaranteed for injury only, gives the team player control at a reasonable cost – Mayhew was up front in explaining his reasons why.

The Lions had grown weary of Fairley’s fluctuating weight and inconsistent play and saw this as a last chance to motivate their talented defensive tackle who’s shown far too few flashes of brilliance on the field.

Fairley digested the news as he finished his workout, and after visiting his Houston-based agent, Brian Overstreet, he decided to take it not as a shot to his pride or a punch to his slimmed-down gut, but a challenge and an opportunity to make more money.

“I kind of said it’s a good thing, kind of,” Fairley said. “It kind of will put me into a new contract earlier than (other) guys coming out in my draft. They’re picking up guys’ fifth-year option, that gets me into a new contract. That’s the way I look at it.”

Even before the Lions decided not to pick up his option, Fairley was in the process of remaking a body he showed off Friday night at a reception for the charity kickball tournament he hosts for local youth every year.

He worked out regularly with trainers while in Houston this off-season, and with the help of the Lions’ strength and conditioning staff the last two months is now a svelte 295 pounds, about 27 pounds lighter than he finished last year.

“I’d say I’m back to my Auburn ways,” Fairley said. “I feel like back when I was at that national championship, and you know how that year went so looking to repeat it.”

Fairley played at about 290 pounds his last season at Auburn, when he had 11.5 sacks and won the Lombardi Trophy as the nation’s best defensive lineman, but has struggled with his weight in the NFL.