COMMENTARY| Cliff Avril says contract talks are progressing with the Detroit Lions. The defensive end was franchised by the club and has until Monday to either sign a new deal or play out a one-year deal at the average rate of the five highest-paid at the position.
While his contract is an important issue, Avril seems genuinely concerned about the well-being of the team, which had a few incidents make headlines: Nick Fairley's DUI and marijuana charge, Mikel Leshoure and Johnny Culbreath's marijuana-related incidents and Aaron Berry's DUI.
As a veteran, it would have been easy for Avril to take shots at the younger players. But he didn't. With a little extra work and emphasis on team, the Lions can put the miscues behind them.
"I wouldn't say I'm embarrassed because we still have put a lot of good work in this offseason," Avril said. "I know me, personally, the work that I'm putting in, and the work the guys are putting in. I wouldn't say I'm embarrassed, I just think we put a little more pressure on ourselves to have to improve a little more now that we've had a few little hiccups. I think we'll come out swinging, and once we win some games, I think everyone will forget all this stuff."
While many feel the behavior of the young Lions was a major blow to the public perception of the franchise, Avril disagrees.
"I wouldn't say it's been difficult," Avril said of the offseason fiascoes. "I would say with the few hiccups we've had, with the few guys getting into in trouble here and there, we have to clean that up, obviously. As far as the team growing, I don't think that stopped us because we still have a lot of veterans on the team.
"The kids that got in trouble, we need them this year for sure, but they weren't major contributors last year. I wouldn't say that affected us as much as people are making it seem. We do need those guys this year and we do need them to clean up their acts a little bit."
The Lions need level-headed veterans that are willing to take ownership. As cliche as that sounds, that's the only way Detroit will be successful. Looking around the league, the teams that shine are those led by guys who follow rules and don't embarrass their ownership or franchises.
Why have the New England Patriots been solid for so long? Well, quarterback Tom Brady has been a major part of that. Brady isn't a player that accepts foolish behavior. He doesn't like the sideshows or needless controversy. He plays football. The Lions need guys who set a similar example. And it doesn't have to be a Brady-like superstar, either.
One interview doesn't say that Avril is willing to be a go-to guy in terms of leadership. But he said the right things -- phrases that a veteran needs to make to get his point across. Detroit doesn't only need Avril's athletic ability, but his demeanor could come in handy, too.
Leaders set examples. Avril can add that to the Lions, who need to meet eye-to-eye and sign him sooner than later.
Adam Biggers has followed the NFL for over 20 years, specifically the Detroit Lions. He can be found on Twitter @AdamBiggers81.
- Sports & Recreation
- Detroit Lions
- Cliff Avril