© Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Former Lions TE Joseph Fauria Finally Comes Clean About Mysterious Ankle Injury

He spares zero details in this elaborate story.

August 09, 2018 - 12:04 pm

Four years later, former Lions tight end Joseph Fauria is coming clean. No, he wasn't chasing his puppy when he suffered the ankle injury that would essentially end his NFL career. He was playing volleyball with some friends in Royal Oak. 

He tells the story in elaborate detail on his Figure It Out podcast. It's transcribed below. 

"Week 3 of my second season in the NFL. We had Tuesday off, and I’ll tell you what, having an off day is the worst. It’s the worst because bad stuff can happen, that’s 24 hours of madness of more bad decisions to be made. I lived in this new neighborhood, in this condominium arena in Royal Oak. My neighbors were nice, they were two good-looking girls that were across my super sweet — sorry, I don’t want to sound like Trump, they weren’t just good-looking girls, they were nice, too. They were just nice females. Anyway, they lived across the street...and I developed a relationship with these girls. Their friend group turned into my friend group.

"We were preparing for the Carolina Panthers that week. We had Monday (practice) and then we had Tuesday off, and Tuesday I guess there was volleyball night at the nearby park gym. They were like, 'Hey, Joe' — they always used to come over and just say hi or I used to go over there and say hi — and they were, like, ‘Hey, you wanna come watch us play volleyball?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, sure. I’m not doing sh*t.’ It’s my day off, I’m not doing anything. I was gonna watch a movie anyway, so why not go watch them? I used to play too, I used to play in high school.

"We get to the game and I watch their first game and my competitive spirit rises – duh – because I’m freaking competitive and I want everyone to see me spike the ball. So what do I do? I jump in the game. But I tell myself, ‘Joe, you’re not gonna jump, you’re not gonna spike. You’re gonna stay in the back and just help them out and show them your awesome passing skills with your super-large hands that are great at passing. Super-large man hands, big triple-X large hands.’ And I didn’t hit the ball at all, stayed on my feet because I was wearing Jordan 11 lows. Anyone that doesn’t know that, they were below my ankle, and I already have a history of bad ankles. But I showed up to a volleyball game to watch – psh, to play – in Jordan 11 lows. Anyway, I don’t hit any balls except for, like, one toward the end. I barely hit it and I get a spike against these freaking awesome people. The other team, obviously wanted to destroy them, but it was just fun.

"Anyway, second game goes by, I’m not sweating, it was just fun. But I get the bug, the I-wanna-show-everyone-what-I-can-do bug, because everyone’s just staring at me and I love when people stare at me and I’m so tall and hitting the ball so hard and I’m so good at sports I want people to look at me. So I’m like, ‘Hey, someone set me. Just real quick, I’m not gonna do anything crazy, just someone set me.’ First one, I jump up in my Jordan lows, approach the net – SMACK – hit the sh*t out of the ball, man. Everyone’s like, ‘Ohh, Joe, you hit the ball so well!’ They liked it and I was like, ‘Psh, I’m gonna do this sh*t again. I’m gonna hit another ball.’ So I take an approach, get the set, jump up – BOOM – hit the ball as a hard as I could, went 10-foot line – hell yeah. Those of you who aren’t volleyball fans, the 10-foot line is hard to get to. You have to be jumping really high or know how to hit the ball really well or be really tall or have all three of those qualities like I did. I hit the ball 10-foot line – f**k yeah – everyone’s cheering.

"But when I come down, I come down on just ankle, left ankle. This most amazing, shocking pain that I’d never felt in my entire life shoots up in my leg, and immediately I’m like, career’s over. First thing I thought, ‘Season’s over, career’s over.’ That’s how much it hurt. In the midst of thinking that right away, I hobble off because there was a bunch of eyes on me. I played it off as best I could because you’re supposed to move it right away just in case, so I hobble-walk-jog-ran outside of the gym to where no one could see me, didn’t say anything, just left. Ankle is on fire. Anyways, I’m hobbling off and I’m like, what do I do? I need to get out of here. People saw me, people recognized me – I hope they don’t recognize me but I think they did. I see the park attendant who recognized me when I walked in, he looked at me hobbling and said, ‘No way.’ I didn’t say anything. I just shook my head because I was disappointed in myself, and he just totally proved how disappointed I should be by the look in his eyes, because he knew it was bad.

"I call an uber in a panic to go home, I call my buddy Sam Martin, the punter on the Lions. I’m like, ‘Dude, what do I do?’ He’s like, ‘You gotta call Dean.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t think I can tell them the truth.’ He didn’t give me any advice because he’s a good friend and he told me the good stuff to say, but I wasn’t gonna listen. I was gonna do it my way. I called some important people in my life and I said, ‘What the hell do I do?’ I didn’t tell them the story right away, I had already made up a story. I get home in utter pain, ankle was already black and blue and purple and orange and yellow and green, all the f**king colors. It hurts, already so fat. I’m in throbbing pain, not knowing what to do. I don’t know whether I’m just in shock, in pain, in anger sadness, in all the emotions.

"I’m waiting to figure out what the f**k I’m gonna do, and my friends who invited me to the volleyball game -- it’s not their fault, it was my responsibility not to go, but I still went. ... My sweet fiends came to check on me. One of my friend’s boyfriends at the time was a paramedic guy, not a doctor, an ambulance guy, and he said, ‘Dude, your foot’s broken,’ and that just pissed me off. I’m like, ‘Ahhh, f**kkk, my foot’s broken, f**kkk.’ But he was wrong, it wasn’t broken, it was just the worst sprain ever. I came to find out that it would have been better to have broken it than just sprain it as bad as I did.

"Nevertheless, convene at my apartment, I’m freaking out. I’m trying to go to an emergency room, the emergency room isn’t open, I have to go to the hospital. I’m in so much, so much pain, and it’s just magnified by the bad decision that was made to do it. One of my friends, one my neighbors, she takes me to the hospital because I can’t drive. I gotta keep it elevated to save it – there’s no saving it at this point. There’s no f**king saving it. It’s like 3:00 in the morning, I tell (the doctors), ‘I was chasing my dog.’ They didn’t even ask me what was going on yet, and I was like, ‘I was chasing my dog.”

"That’s when I developed the lie. I had a brand-new puppy at the time, Rufio, he’s here today, and this is why I need to tell the story, to apologize to my dog because it was a lie that I made up of him. That’s where it began, at the hospital, because I was scared that if I told them they were gonna break their oath and then tell the team. So I was like, I’m gonna stop it here. I’m not telling this doctor the truth, I’m gonna tell him that I was chasing my dog and my ankle went bye-bye when I was running down the street chasing him. I was chasing my dog because he peed in the house, I chased him with my socks on down my carpet stairs and my carpet stairs turn into hardwood at the bottom, so that makes a great case for me to twist my ankle. Great story, Joe. No, you f**king idiot, you played volleyball.

"At the hospital, 3:00 in the morning, throbbing pain, they give me Dilaudid. That’s how bad it was. If you don’t know what Dilaudid is, it’s an Opioid. This is, like, the drug that killed Michael Jackson, the reason why Michael Jackson died is because of this drug called Dilaudid. That’s how bad my injury was, that’s how much pain I was in. They gave me two doses, and it was so bad that they had to give me another one because I was bigger and it was so bad. Then they cut it off at a certain point and I said, ‘Listen, I’m in so much f**king pain,’ and I was already high, too, but then I was like, ‘I’m still in pain, you gotta give me more.’ They have to give me an extra dose, which is where they cut it off, but they gave me more because I was in so much pain. That sucked, that really sucked.

"Anyway, the events leading after that were interesting because I had to lie to millions of people. That was hard, that sucked. It all started the next morning when I had to call the team physician and tell him what happened -- the lie, of course, not the truth. I was the first one in there the next morning, only on a couple hours of sleep because I was still in the hospital until like 4 a.m. 6 in the morning hits, I’m already in the training room, in the boot for an hour, the head coach walks in, Jim Caldwell, he asks me what happened. I lied. Why did I lie? Was it because I started the lie at the hospital? Did I want to lie to my head coach? No, but I was thinking about myself. In my mind, I had to think about myself at that point because I was told – I don’t know who told me at the time, someone whose word I valued a lot, call it an agent, call it a friend, call it whatever you want. They told me that if the Lions found out I got hurt playing volleyball they could exercise the option of not paying me. Okay, it’s Week 3, you get paid in increments, you get paid each week. They stop paying me now, that’s not good. I want that money, so that’s why I lied, because I was like, I need to keep this money. And they still could have taken my money because it was on off-field injury, but I was like, ‘C’mon, I was chasing my cute-ass puppy.’ It was a cute dog.

"By the way, told that story to the press a few days later, it blew up. It got media viral legs, fluffy-ass legs because my dog is fluffy as sh*t. My dog was all over the national news, CNN, Bleacher Report, freaking Good Morning America, (Michael) Strahan was talking about him. Even the first season of (the HBO show) Ballers, the first or second episode they reference a player hurting himself chasing a dog, that reference was to me. That’s my claim to fame​. ... Rufio was big news, he got a bunch of followers from it on Instagram. It was such a far-fetched story, but it was a cute pup that if kind of went away for a little bit, and, you know, what’s the next big news on Twitter and sh*t like that.

"Anyway, that was my lie that I had to tell millions of people and this is me coming clean for the first time. I’ve told a few friends, a few close relatives. It’s so funny -- it’s kind of f**ked up actually. It’s f**ked up because I had to lie to my quarterback, I had to lie to people. It sucked, I didn’t like it, but I was like, yo, I kind of have to so it doesn’t get legs. There were already rumors about me, what I did, what I was doing. There was a volleyball rumor, but I shut it down, I tried to. And the best part about it was the media actually went to the volleyball gym to check and see if this story were true, and they saw the earlier-mentioned park manager guy who saw me limping really hard when I got the fresh injury. And good old park guy apparently -- I know this from a good source – didn’t tell the media anything and said that he never saw me. So, to the park guy in Royal Oak, Michigan, if you’re still working at the park and listening to the podcast, I appreciate you not spilling the beans, I appreciate that a lot. It means the world to me because it kept my lie intact for so long -- semi intact -- but now it’s clean, now it’s out there. We’ll see if people respond to this, but this is my figure-it-out story, this is why I’m doing this." 

The Lions cut Fauria prior to the 2015 season. He hasn't appeared in an NFL game since. His seven touchdowns in 2013 are still tied for the most by a Lions tight end in a single season in the Super Bowl era.