RENTON Cliff Avril’s season may be over.
His career may be, too.
The Seahawks are expected to put their Pro Bowl defensive end on their injured-reserve list perhaps as early as this week, because of neck and spine issues he’s had since Oct. 1. That would mean the 10-year veteran would miss at least the next eight games, until mid-December at the earliest.
But, really, Avril has been considering he may be at the end of his career for the last two weeks. One of the most well-liked and respected guys on the Seahawks, inside and outside the locker room, Avril has been seeing doctors and specialists to get their opinions on the risks to his quality of life from nerve issues that caused him to temporarily lose feeling in his arms and hands.
Coach Pete Carroll told SiriusXM NFL Radio Wednesday: “Cliff will be going on IR here. And he’s got a...it’s going to take some time for him to deal with his situation. We’ll figure it out as we go. Not a definitive situation yet, but it is going to be a while. We’ve got to give him a while for his neck to calm down and we’ll see how that goes.
“He’s taking in a lot of information right now. He’s taking in a lot of information right now. He’s seeing a lot of doctors. He’s just trying to find out exactly what his situation is and what he can anticipate. And seriously looking at this. It’s a big decision coming up.”
Avril played 11 snaps against Indianapolis on Oct. 1 before quarterback Jacoby Brissett kicked him under the chin and jolted his previously concussed head back, while Avril pursued him in the first quarter. He did not return to that game. He hasn’t played or practiced since.
Earlier this month, Carroll said at team headquarters: “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 coming off a career year: 11 1/2 sacks in 2016, earning his first Pro Bowl selection. 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."
He may be learning now that he can’t keep playing. More to the point, that he shouldn’t.