Fairley was diagnosed with an enlarged heart before he joined the National Football League as a first-round draft pick in 2011 - which Payton said is not all that uncommon. He signed a one-year deal with the Rams in 2015 before agreeing to a four-year, $28 million contract with the Saints in March.
In addition to his career-high sacks last season, Fairley was credited with nine tackles for losses and 22 quarterback hits.
"The things we know are this: It's obviously something significant and serious that we've got to play attention to, obviously both for Nick and for the club", Saints coach Sean Payton said earlier this month. Fairley had the best year of his career with the Saints.
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Fairley's heart issue was a cause for concern before he was drafted in 2011. ESPN's Adam Schefter tweeted Monday's announcement could put Fairley's National Football League career in jeopardy.
Fairley sometimes struggled to meet expectations during his first five pro seasons. A second doctor's opinion "was a little different", Payton said, and Fairley then saw a third doctor.
With Fairley out, the Saints will lean on Sheldon Rankins, David Onyemata and Tyeler Davison as their top interior defenders. His 2016 season with the Saints was the only of his six in which he played every regular season game. The Detroit Lions still drafted him in the first round, and he spent four years with them.