RENTON, Wash. — First slowed by foot problems during offseason workouts, and then a hamstring, Cliff Avril was just happy to be feeling well enough to get on the field for a short time.
“Definitely not how I wanted to start out here,” Avril said. “It’s part of football. Things happen. For me it’s just getting better every day and progressing with the injuries and getting ready for the season.”
Avril, Seattle’s big free agent signing at defensive end in the offseason, was on the practice field Wednesday for the first time in training camp. Avril only participated in individual drills, but coach Pete Carroll was hopeful Avril might make it through a full practice on Thursday.
“It was just a start. We couldn’t get him past the individual periods yet. We’re going to do a little bit more tomorrow and just start bringing him back,” Carroll said. “It’s great getting him back on the field. He needs to be part of this.”
Even if Avril makes it through a full practice on Thursday, it’s unlikely that he would play on Saturday when the Seahawks host Denver in their second preseason game.
Getting Avril back is critical for the Seahawks because of depth issues at defensive end. They still don’t know when Chris Clemons will return as he continues to recover from knee surgery after he was injured in Seattle’s playoff win at Washington in January. Michael Bennett, who was one of three key defensive line signings by the Seahawks in the offseason, can also play at defensive end.
Otherwise, the Seahawks are unproven at the position. Seattle went after Avril for his ability to pressure the quarterback, believing he could fit in as a rusher from the LEO position in its defensive scheme. Seattle was so thin at the position earlier this week that the only true rush end working out in practice was undrafted free agent Benson Mayowa.
“I’ve been wanting to get out there since I had my little injury. It feels great to be back out there just trying to build that camaraderie,” Avril said. “This is a case of me just trying to get better every day. I’ve been working out after practice every day and they felt like I could go out there and do some stuff today.”
Avril said the scheme he’s being asked to run in Seattle is similar to what he did in Detroit, except now he will switch sides depending on the formation. In Detroit, Avril stayed in one spot, always rushing from the left end position.
“That’s probably the biggest difference is being able to adjust to playing on the right and left,” Avril said. “It’s coming along. Mentally, football is football. Pass rushing, you’ve just got to get used to different things.”
While Avril was able to get back on Wednesday, the same can’t be said of Tony McDaniel, another offseason addition to the Seahawks defensive line. McDaniel has been bothered by a groin injury. Carroll was hopeful of getting him back this week so the Seahawks can get a look at him at defensive tackle to see if he can be the replacement for Alan Branch. Seattle signed McDaniel for his run-stopping ability on early downs.
With McDaniel and second-year defensive tackle Jaye Howard both out, most of the reps have been going to rookies Jesse Williams and Jordan Hill.
“We have not seen enough to see where he fits in,” Carroll said of McDaniel. “He has the chance to be one of the lead candidates for the three-technique spot but we don’t know anything about it. We’ve seen just limited plays. The game time is going to be really important for him. Hopefully, he’ll get a chance to do that. The other guys are trying to take advantage of that. Jordan and Jesse are jumping at this opportunity. It’s unfortunate for Tony.”