Cliff Avril knew it was coming. Saw it since last week, in fact.
It took just a couple of seconds for the Seahawks defensive end to chuckle knowingly at the first question he got following Sunday’s practice.
“I knew this Romo thing was coming up,” Avril said on his first practice day since his tackle from behind on Tony Romo in a preseason game broke a bone in the Dallas quarterback’s back.
Avril has been inundated on social media with angry messages from apparent Cowboys fans that claim his hit on Thursday, at the start of Romo’s slide to the turf, was a dirty play. Some said Avril had intent to injure one of Texas’ biggest stars.
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“I’m definitely surprised,” Avril said of the reaction, especially after the news that Romo may miss up to 10 weeks. “The Cowboys fans have been sending a lot of hate mail — well, not ‘hate mail’ — but a lot of crazy tweets. But I don’t pay too much attention to it.
“It’s kind of interesting to see how you just think you are making a play on the football field, and so many people think a certain way about it. But it is what it is. I don’t really care. I’m reaching out to Romo, so it is what it is.”
Avril felt compelled on Thursday night, following the game, to use his Twitter account to explain himself.
“Look, I’m not in the business of hurting anybody ... Definitely didn’t know @TonyRomo was hurt ...,” Avril posted. “So all u guys on my timeline can fall back!!”
Avril said he didn’t have any immediate indication of the injury’s severity — no Romo yells or indications of pain — following the play. It came three snaps into Seattle’s 27-17 win.
“I didn’t even see him until after I celebrated (with teammate Bobby Wagner and others) and I saw him still on the ground. That’s when I knew something happened to him,” Avril said. “But after he got up, walked to the sidelines, I tapped him on his leg and whatever, talked to him for a second. But I didn’t know it was that serious.”
Romo, in fact, tried to re-enter the game a few plays later. He put on his helmet and started jogging onto the field to replace rookie backup Dak Prescott on the same Cowboys’ opening drive, but coaches called Romo back to the sideline. That’s where he stayed for the rest of the game.
Asked if he knows Romo at all, Avril said: “ No. Us quarterbacks and D-ends don’t really hang out together.”
Avril is entering the final week of his ninth NFL preseason, his fourth with Seattle after arriving in 2013 as a free agent from Detroit. He’s been flying around this summer, as usual, the lower-key, overlooked partner to Pro Bowl bookend Michael Bennett on the Seahawks’ disruptive defensive line.
Though overshadowed by the louder Bennett, Avril has one thing he’s forceful about this week: Seattle’s preseason finale Thursday at Oakland.
“I’m praying, I’m praying – I’m praying – I don’t even have to dress for this game,” the 30-year-old end said, representing the feelings of just about every veteran with a secure job in the NFL this week.
“But I don’t know if I’ve made it to that status yet.”
Rookie picks sidelined – Coach Pete Carroll said Sunday, following a practice in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets, that second-round pick Jarran Reed will not play at Oakland because of a toe injury from last week.
Third-round pick Nick Vannett will not play at tight end, either, because of a high ankle sprain.
The coach said it would be “a race against it” for both to play in the season opener on Sept. 11 against Miami.
Reed was the starting defensive tackle for much of this month, while fourth-year veteran Jordan Hill was out with a groin strain. With Reed out, Hill is back as the No. 1 tackle next to Ahtyba Rubin in base defenses.