At this rate, Cliff Avril may be building not just houses but a whole city in Haiti.
The father of the Seahawks defensive end 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. Now, as perhaps the most consistently brilliant yet overlooked member of Seattle’s starry defense, Avril has pledged to build one home in Haiti for each sack he gets this season.
He’s not even halfway through his year for the Seahawks (4-2-1). Yet after another sublime game last weekend in New Orleans, Avril is committed to funding 7 1/2 new houses in storm- and poverty-battered Haiti.
With 7 1/2 sacks in seven games entering Monday night’s game against Buffalo (4-4) at CenturyLink Field, Avril is on his way to setting a career high; the ninth-year veteran had 11 sacks for Detroit in 2011, his first year in the NFL, when he started all 16 games.
The Saints game was the latest in a series of superb outings for Avril: another sack, a tackle behind the line, another quarterback hit, a fumble he forced from Saints running back Mark Ingram with a punch, which teammate Earl Thomas returned for a touchdown, and even a pass batted down.
Avril has 12 quarterback hits – six in one game – two batted passes for incompletions and three forced fumbles.
Other than that, he hasn’t done squat in two months.
“We’re so fortunate to play a game for a living, and I’m lucky to be able to provide homes for people since that’s something that we take for granted,” Avril said. “I’m fortunate enough to be able to be in a situation to help some people – and hopefully, I can get some more (sacks).”
Haiti and the Pacific Northwest alike will be rooting for Avril to get more sacks in these next few weeks.
His pass rush off the edge and disruption everywhere else will be even more important because Michael Bennett, Seattle’s more acclaimed Pro Bowl end opposite Avril, had arthroscopic surgery Wednesday in Los Angeles. Bennett will miss Monday’s game and at least the Nov. 13 game at New England, too.
Avril’s success in affecting Tom Brady will go a long way toward determining if the Seahawks can win their biggest road test of the regular season.
Bennett gets all the headlines for how loud he is on the field – and all for the funny, insightful, outspoken and often outrageous statements he makes off it.
Bennett does comical hip thrusts and swivels. He blares rap music in the locker room with explicit lyrics about the presidential election. He shrieks a heinous rendition of Adele at a military-appreciation event for Navy sailors and Marines at CenturyLink Field. And the married father of three daughters offers this advice to teammate Russell Wilson, a father to be: “Always make the wife think she’s right.”
That’s all been within just the last month.
Avril? He’s the smooth to Bennett’s smack and shake.
“He’s a nut case,” Avril once said of Bennett, admiringly.
Thing is, Avril sends just as much harassment and harm at opposing quarterbacks, from the other side. It’s just he does it relatively quietly.
How much do the Seahawks value the work of Avril compared with Bennett? They gave Bennett a four-year, $28.5 million contract in 2014. Later that year, they gave Avril a four-year extension worth … $28.5 million.
You may have heard a time or three how unhappy Bennett is about his money, how he’s the NFL’s 27th-highest-paid defensive lineman.
He’s tied for 27th with Avril. When’s the last time you heard Avril complain about that?