Cliff Avril: A great leader and ‘statesman’

Avril on NFLNThis day was destined to come, but it doesn’t make it any less sad to see a stellar player’s career end (at least in Seattle) due to injury.

If you measure the best by (1) how they played and (2) how they comported themselves on and off the field, Cliff Avril goes down as one of the best Seahawks ever. He was pure class as a player and remains so as a person. (Just check out his Players’ Tribune tribute to Seattle.)

As Pete Carroll said after rookie minicamp Friday: “He has been a great leader and a bit of a statesman for us. He always says the right thing and stands for the right stuff and he has been a really high-character guy who you can just always count on. He has been a great competitor in the program, and I love him, and we’d like to keep him connected with our club as long as we can, because he’s just exactly what you’d hope to represent you.”

On the field alone, Avril was one of the top five pass rushers in team history. He tied for fourth in sacks per game among guys who played at least four years for Seattle (the minimum time for us to consider anyone a noteworthy Seahawk). Only Chris Clemons, Ring of Honor star Jacob Green (the career sack leader and really best DE in team history) and Michael Bennett ranked better at sacking the QB than Avril.

“Cliff was a fantastic player for us,” Carroll said. “We were very fortunate to get him back when we did years ago. And because of where he had been and what he had been through, he came in with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, and did nothing but great stuff.

“He has had a great career with us; we couldn’t have done it without him. I know this is a turn for him, but it’s a good turn. He’s had a good career that he put behind him and he’s moving on feeling good, and we’ll always be grateful for all the work he brought us.”

In the Tribune piece, Avril said his future was still undetermined: “A lot of people have been asking me if I’m considering retirement, and all I can really say is that I’m working closely with my doctors and that I’m going to make the best decision for myself and my family when the time is right.”

He also thanked the franchise, his teammates and the fans.

To Bennett, he wrote: “We came to Seattle together, and now we’re leaving together. I’m proud of what we did there, and I love you for always having my back no matter what.”

To the rest of the 2013-17 defensive core — Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and K.J. Wright: “When I came to Seattle and saw the kind of talent you guys had, I took it as a challenge to prove to you that I could contribute to the best defense in football. You motivated me. I became the player I was because of you.”

To the fans: “There are no fans like you anywhere else in professional sports. Anywhere. … So thank you, Seattle. I’m going to miss being a Seahawk. Actually, who am I kidding …

“I’ll always be one.”

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