Fairley, who was found not guilty of DUI last week, was limited to eight games last season because of a knee injury. Before the season, he was temporarily pulled from the starting lineup for being overweight.
Austin said he was impressed by how Fairley responded to both of his setbacks last season.
“As a player you could say, 'I'm going to play hard or I'm going to get in shape' and sometimes when things don't go well you go right back into your old habits,” Austin told detroitlions.com.
“He got injured and he didn't. He kept himself in good shape. He kept his weight down, he worked really hard and if we were fortunate enough to win at Dallas he would have been ready to play a little bit in the next game and so that shows me that he's turned the corner.”
The 27-year-old Fairley has completed his rookie contract and can be a free agent in March. In four seasons with the Lions, he has recorded 13.5 sacks, 98 tackles and four forced fumbles.
Detroit's defense finished No. 2 in yards allowed and No. 3 in scoring last season. The Lions finished 11-5 and lost to the Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
- Paul Palladino