RENTON While his coach and the Seahawks remain vague on what’s going on with Cliff Avril following neck surgery, his best friend on the team is absolutely clear about it.
Michael Bennett knows how real Avril’s injury is, how Avril could have been paralyzed--and how the issue isn’t about football but his close friend’s quality of life.
“It’s really hard,” Bennett, Avril’s fellow Pro Bowl defensive end, said Thursday, two days after Avril had surgery to repair a disc injury he got when his head snapped back off the heel of Indianapolis quarterback Jacoby Brissett Oct. 1 and put Avril’s career in doubt.
“In this league you come in and it’s hard to build relationships with people. But I think the relationship that me and Cliff have is a family type of relationship,” Bennett said. “We are really close, as brothers. Not to have him out there on the football field is always devastating. But to see what he is going through personally is more devastating.
“A lot of times fans aren’t connected to the injury part of the game. They are more connected to whether their fantasy league points are up high, or if their fantasy league points are low. When guys are really injured for life-altering injuries--and I’m not talking about like an Achilles or an ACL, I’m talking about neck injuries--those injuries are the type of injuries that can last forever. Those are the type of injuries that fans don’t understand what you go through personally.
“So for him, and me, and the rest of the guys, it’s a personal journey that we’re going through with him as he goes through it, making sure that he has a lot of people who care about him.
“This is a great organization that continuously shows that they care about their injured players, unlike most teams in the NFL.”
Pete Carroll is taking great care is leaving the words about Avril’s football future to Avril. He hasn’t spoken publicly since he got hurt. But there have been no signs the 31-year-old pass rusher will be coming back next season, the final year of his $28.5 million contract extension he signed in December 2014.
“We are just going to take care of him, and make sure that he’s well,” Carroll said last month. “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.”
Before Thursday’s practice, Bennett talked at length with strong safety Kam Chancellor. Chancellor is another Seahawks star with a neck injury that has ended his season and has his career in doubt.
Avril’s made $25 million the last four seasons including this one. His deal has that 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.
Bennett talks with Avril “every day.” He had already spoken to him after his surgery Tuesday, good-naturedly teasing his best bud about being in the hospital.
But Bennett knows this is no joke.
“It’s one of those things where you want to be able to walk away from the game the way you want to walk away from the game,” Bennett said. “To suffer any injury of any magnitude, especially one like that one where you could have easily been paralyzed, it’s something that you have to be able to try to move forward past. That’s a hard thing to do.
“It’s always devastating to lose a guy and not know his future. His future is uncertain. Nobody knows what’s going to happen.
“For me, I take that personally. So that’s just heart.”