What was becoming obvious is now official: Kam Chancellor is out for the rest of the season.
And his future beyond that?
“It’s up to him,” coach Pete Carroll told Seattle’s KIRO-AM radio Monday morning on his weekly show.
That was moments after he announced the Seahawks’ thumping strong safety will miss the remainder of this season. Chancellor hasn’t played since he got a nerve, neck “stinger” issue making a tackle on Arizona’s Andre Ellington late in the win Nov. 9.
Carroll also said Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril will have surgery this week to fix a disc issue. Avril is on injured reserve and hasn’t played since Oct. 1 because his own neck issue.
Asked by 710 AM about whether the surgery means the end of the 31-year-old Avril’s career, Carroll said that also was up to Avril.
I wouldn’t read a ton into the coach saying their futures are up to each player, other than to underscore how serious Chancellor’s and Avril’s situations are from a quality-of-life standpoint. Neck issues are nothing to mess with, and if each player or both decide they have made enough money and as they enter their mid-30’s with families they no longer need to play, that’s their personal choice to make. Carroll is publicly and likely privately deferring to that.
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 Seahawks general manager John Schneider’s office is, among those of other team leaders. The scene showed this was more than a couple-game absence.
Chancellor, 29, 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.
From a roster standpoint, the Seahawks’ most obvious option next would be to put Chancellor on injured reserve before Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. But Seattle may not be able to add any more contracts without shedding someone else’s; players on IR 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.
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.
Both Avril and Chancellor left the team after their injuries to seek multiple opinions of doctors about their futures, but have since been back and with the Seahawks at practices and games, home and away.
Both don’t need to play if quality of life is an issue, as it of course can be with any type of neck injuries.
This could indeed be their 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 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.