There’s no official word on what a third doctor had to say, but defensive tackle Nick Fairley won’t hit the field for the New Orleans Saints this season.

It’s obviously a big blow to the New Orleans Saints. But there’s also the safety of the player to consider. This week, the team placed defensive tackle Nick Fairley on the non-football illness/reserve list. The decision comes after the 2011 first-round draft choice of the Detroit Lions had additional testing on his heart condition.

Fairley played his sixth season in the NFL last year with New Orleans. The 291-pound former University of Auburn standout has started 77 regular season games with the Lions, Rams and Saints. He’s collected 20.5 sacks during his career. He comes off a year in which he totaled 43 tackles and a career-best 6.5 quarterback traps, as well as 22 quarterback hits.

“Who Dat Nation” hopes that record season won’t be his last. But the recent news hasn’t been good when it comes to Fairley’s football future. This latest development is one of several hits to the Saints this offseason in regards to injuries. Left tackle Terron Armstead will be out four to six months following shoulder surgery. Center Max Unger is recovering from foot surgery. With Fairley’s loss, New Orleans will need even more than expected from Sheldon Rankins, David Onyemata and recently-signed Tony McDaniel to turn this defense around.

While it is possible that the Saints and Fairley could agree on terms to release him to play for another team this season, that doesn’t look likely. If he doesn’t return to play, it will be interesting to see how the club manages the guaranteed dollars on his recent big money contract. Perhaps they will hold off his potential retirement until the 2018 season to save themselves a bigger cap hit.

Misty Mitchell covers the New Orleans Saints for Pro Football Spot. You can follow her on Twitter at @MrsTMitchell1.  Like our Saints Facebook page HERE and also follow @spot_saints on Twitter for more Saints coverage.

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