During offseason contract negotiations with Lions officials, DE Cliff Avril said he wanted a long-term contract with Detroit to provide security for his family. That long-term security will be placed on hold while Avril plays the 2012 season under the franchise tag, but he told reporters Sunday that his nine-day holdout was partially an attempt to put family first.
“I wanted to spend time with my son for his first birthday,” he said. “I knew what day I was going to come back; I had it planned out already.”
Avril's son Xavier is seemingly always at the forefront of both his private and public life. Pictures of the 1-year old adorn his locker, and he routinely posts photos of his son on Twitter. Avril said the opportunity to spend his child's first birthday away from football was one he won't soon forget. “It was amazing,” he said. “It's always worth it; it's his first birthday. He comes first.”
With his holdout behind him, Avril must shift his focus from family to the sport that pays the bills. Despite missing Detroit's entire offseason program and the first week of training camp, Avril said his offseason training regimen has him ready to rejoin the team. He said his biggest challenge will be learning the changes to Detroit's playbook. “I think that's going to be my biggest issue right now is trying to memorize things again,” he said.
Although he received criticism from some Lions fans over his hard-line stance during contract negotiations, Avril said he never felt pressure from teammates to change his position. “[DE]
After Avril fielded questions about his family and his decision to rejoin the team, the tone shifted when he was asked whether the lack of a long-term deal would affect his play in 2012. He said the experience of playing the 2011 season -- when he made a team-best 11 sacks -- on a restricted free-agent tender will serve him well while he plays under the franchise tag. “I was on a one-year deal last year, and I didn't really think about it,” he said. “Now that I've signed on the dotted line, it's all about making plays for the team and winning some games."