By Brady Henderson
RENTON – Cliff Avril was a spectator as the Seahawks held their first organized team activity Monday, but he says the plantar fascia foot injury that kept him on the sideline is nothing to be concerned about.
While painful, Avril's injury didn't require surgery, and coach Pete Carroll said he expects the defensive end to be back to full speed in a matter of weeks.
That qualifies as a bit of good news for the Seahawks, who have seen their pass rush take a hit in recent weeks with Avril's foot injury, Greg Scruggs' ACL tear and Bruce Irvin's suspension. When the Seahawks signed Avril and Michael Bennett during the first week of free agency, their additions were seen as a luxury for a team that already had Irvin and at some point would get Chris Clemons back from a knee injury.
The outlook changed Friday when the NFL announced that Irvin will be suspended for the first four games of the season for a violation of the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. Irvin waived his right to appeal and acknowledged that he made a mistake by taking a substance that is prohibited without a medical-use exemption. He apologized publicly via a statement released by the team as well as a lengthy message posted on his Twitter account.
Irvin also apologized to his teammates during a team meeting. That impressed Avril, who saw plenty of teammates run afoul of the law and the NFL's policies during his five seasons with the Lions.
"Honestly, it was surprising for a young player like that to want to get in front of the team and apologize and what not. That was great, though, to see that maturity in him," Avril said. "I've only known him for a few weeks now, and to see a young player actually want to go out in front of 50, 60 guys and tell them what's going on and that he's going to miss the first four games of the season, much respect to him."
Irvin, eligible to participate in offseason activities despite his suspension, lined up at both Leo end and outside linebacker Monday. The Seahawks are considering using Irvin and Avril at outside linebacker in certain situations this season as a way of getting as many pass rushers on the field as possible, and Monday's OTA was an indication that they aren't scrapping that experiment because of Irvin's suspension.
Avril, 27, totaled 29 sacks over the last three seasons while mostly playing end in Detroit's 4-3 defense. While any new position requires a significant adjustment, starting in a two-point stance and dropping into coverage aren't completely foreign concepts for Avril, who began his career at Purdue as an outside linebacker. The Seahawks haven't offered many specifics about their plans for Avril and Irvin, but Avril said any action he sees in that role would include him lining up on the line of scrimmage.
"We talked about it during the process while I was signing. It's possible that there may be times where they need me to drop into coverage from time to time, and I do feel like I can do it. Whatever the team needs," he said. "But come passing downs, I truly believe I'll be one of the guys getting after the quarterbacks."