RENTON For the first time since they’ve been Seahawks, the next steps for Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril do not involve football.
They involve their basic quality of life.
Coach Pete Carroll confirmed Monday Chancellor is out for the remainder of this season, based on the advice of doctors about his neck injury. Carroll said whether the thumping, 29-year-old strong safety plays again is entirely up to him.
The possibility the soul of Seattle’s aging, battered defense may never play again is more real than it’s ever been.
“I’m not really considering worrying about that right now,” Carroll said. “We’re just trying to get to week to week here and more concerned about just Kam and his mentality and how he’s doing.
“And he’ll be in charge of all of that.”
Carroll said the same for Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril. The 31-year old will have surgery Tuesday to repair a disc issue in his neck. He is on injured reserve, so his season is also over. His playing career is in just as much if not more doubt as Avril’s.
“Who knows? I don’t know what the future holds,” Carroll said of his pass rusher. “Guys do come back from that surgery, sometimes. And sometimes they don’t. It just depends.
“I know you guys want more on all that stuff. But I’m just trying to respect their situations as much as I can and to give you a little bit. (It) opens up the door for these guys, and they don’t want to talk about this stuff, either, right now any more than they have to.
“I hope you respect that part of it.”
We totally respect how serious Chancellor’s and Avril’s situations are from a quality-of-life standpoint. Neck issues, of course, are nothing to mess with. If both decide they have made enough money and as they enter their 30’s with families they no longer need to play a sport that is the equivalent of 80 car crashes each Sunday, that’s their personal choice to make. Who is Carroll, the team or anyone to dispute Chancellor and Avril aren’t justified and wise to walk away--especially while they can still walk?
Carroll is deferring to that being their choice, not the Seahawks’.
Both Avril and Chancellor left the team after their injuries to seek multiple opinions of doctors about their futures. They have since been back with the Seahawks at practices and games, home and away. That included Sunday’s win at San Francisco, when Bradley McDougald again started for Chancellor and Frank Clark held down Avril’s starting spot opposite Michael Bennett at end.
Asked if Chancellor needed surgery to repair the nerve issues in his neck he got tackling running back Andre Ellington late in Seattle’s win at Arizona Nov. 9, Carroll said “right now, no.”
“Really, I’m trying to be very respectful of Kam and let him kind of call the shots as far as what’s known and all that kind of stuff, and how he wants to talk about it,” Carroll said. “Because this is him. It’s not us. It’s him. We’ll support him in all that we can. He was a fantastic factor in this game (against the 49ers) and in the locker room, He was big time, and on the sideline he was big time in helping the communications and stuff.
“I’m glad he’s staying with us and still adding the presence that he’s always been able to add.”
As for Carroll said Chancellor will say more about his future when he sees fit: Knowing him that may be after the season, so he does not distract from his team’s push without him toward a sixth consecutive appearance in the NFL playoffs.
“Well, he feels good. He feels comfortable--he’s not in discomfort at all, which is good,” Carroll said. “But there’s a process as far as when we do the work with the up-and-down stuff.”
He means when to put Chancellor on injured reserve. From a roster standpoint it would benefit the Seahawks (7-4) to put him on IR before Sunday night’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles (10-1), so they could add a player to the active roster who could contribute against the NFL’s hottest team. But Seattle may not be able to add any more contracts without shedding someone else’s. Players on injured reserve still get paid per their existing contracts.
The team is so up against the NFL salary cap for 2017 it waived future Hall-of-Fame pass rusher Dwight Freeney and promoted rookie wide receiver David Moore from the practice squad last week, to save a little more than $200,000 over the final six games of the regular season.
“We’ll figure that out,” Carroll said.
Avril has been contemplating this surgery for the last two months, so his news was not a surprise.
Neither was Carroll’s confirmation on Chancellor.
Two weeks ago during a practice, Chancellor and his wife walked into team headquarters, past the indoor practice field, past the locker room and upstairs. That’s where general manager John Schneider’s office is, among those of other team leaders. That showed his was more than an absence of a couple games.
Chancellor turns 30 before next season. He signed his long-sought extension this August. It gave him $25 million guaranteed. He’d wanted that third contract for more two years, including during his holdout that lasted two games into the 2015 season.
Injuries like the one he now has and sudden career mortality like he is facing are why.
Avril has been on injured reserve since Oct. 20, and teammates such as fellow end Frank Clark have been scared by Avril’s injury and situation. On Oct. 1 Avril got kicked under the jaw by Indianapolis’ Jacoby Brissett while the Colts quarterback tried to scramble away from Avril’s diving attempt at a tackle. The 10-year veteran temporarily lost feeling in his arms and hands; he could be seen vigorously shaking them on the field immediately after the hit to try to regain feeling in them.
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 two seasons 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.
That’s a life after football worth living. And that’s a choice Avril will be making after his neck surgery on Tuesday.
He and Chancellor don’t need to play any more if quality of life is in any doubt, as it of course can be with neck injuries. They’ve already “made it.”
This could indeed be their end.
I asked Carroll if he could see the validity of them not needing to risk playing again at their ages and status in their respective careers.
“I don’t know. I don’t speculate on guys that are different ages and stuff,” the coach said. “I’m just looking at their situations; each one of them is an individual and how they’re looking at it. And we are, too, and trying to support them and guide them and help them.
“I don’t know how to speculate about that based on the stages of their career and all of that.
“I don’t know.”
Right now, no one does. Except maybe Chancellor and Avril.