RENTON Cliff Avril’s issue has gone from will he play this week to should he play again anytime soon.
The neck and spine issues that caused the Pro Bowl end to lose feeling in his arms and hands after he got kicked under the chin during Sunday night’s win against Indianapolis have Avril out of the Seahawks’ defense for Sunday’s game at the NFC West-leading Los Angeles Rams. And indefinitely.
“Cliff’s not going to play this week,” coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday. “We are going to take some time to make sure that we are evaluating well, like we’ve talked about.
“We are going to hold him out.”
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I asked Carroll if it appears Avril’s absence will be long-term.
“It could be. Could be, yeah,” Carroll said. “We are going very slowly, making sure that he takes all the opportunity to talk to as many people as he wants to talk to, to make sure he knows what he’s got and what we need to do with it. We are just going to take care of him, and make sure that he’s well, and if he wants to come back, and we want to bring him back, we’ll let you know when we know.
“But right now we don’t.”
The part about “if he wants to come back...” stands out most as a cold reminder how suddenly careers in the NFL can flourish--and can end.
Avril is 31. He’s made $25 million the last four seasons including this one, part of the four-year, $28.5 million extension he signed in 2014. His deal has one year and $7 million remaining on it after this season. None of that 2018 money is guaranteed.
He has far more going for him than just football. He and his wife Dantia have two young sons, Xavier and Xander. He and his Cliff Avril Family Foundation have held charity events such as backpack and school-supply giveaways to kids to raise awareness for childhood diabetes. He has donated money for each of his 14 1/2 sacks over the last 21 games to build homes in impoverished Haiti. Avril has visited the island nation to do some of the building. His father emigrated from Haiti in 1982, four years before Avril was born. Avril visited the Caribbean nation as a kid every summer to see his grandmother.
Most of all, I realized Avril wasn’t about football above all else in his reaction to being pulled out of Super Bowl 49 in February 2015, because of a concussion. He got that in the third quarter of a championship game he and teammate Michael Bennett were dominating.
In his foggy state that day against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots, Avril saw a bigger picture. He said he thought of his wife and family. Their second son, Xander, was born later that year after that Super Bowl.
"Of course I wish I could have played out there. But my health is more important," Avril said in November. "I think the docs did a great, a good job in that they felt I couldn’t go back out there.
"They ask you all these different things. They ask you days of the week. Some of the questions you probably couldn’t answer if you weren’t concussed," Avril joked.
"Yeah, they went through that whole protocol and felt like, yeah, I was out of it. So they made the right call."
Avril did not protest to go back in? Not at all?
"Nope," he said. "That’s not something you want to play with.
"I mean, the game is changing, obviously, as far as this whole concussion thing. I feel like the more we get to know about how bad the situation may be in the long run, I feel like as a player, as a professional, as a person – as a father – you should do the right thing, even though you want to keep playing.
"If they feel like you can’t, you shouldn’t."
Avril was asked in November if there was a time earlier in his nine-year NFL career when he would have played through something like that.
"Yeah," he said without hesitation, "before I had kids.
"I’m serious. You start having kids, having a family, now you have to life for them, too. You’ve got to put that in perspective.”
He’s doing that again this week.
Avril played 11 snaps against the Colts before quarterback Jacoby Brissett kicked him under the chin and jolted his previously concussed head back while Avril pursued him in the first quarter Sunday night. He did not return to the game.
Carroll said Avril feels OK walking around this week.
“I think he’s fine. He feels fine, from what he said the other day,” the coach said.
But he’s just beginning talking to multiple doctors and “a lot of stuff,” Carroll said.
That process will take as long as it needs to.
And as long as it should.