Seahawks defensive end Cliff Avril was a rookie with the Detroit Lions in 2008. Go look up that team. Yes, it was the 0-16 Lions.
Now Avril’s in the Super Bowl, with Seattle, five years later. And Detroit seems awfully far away.
“That’s the first thing I thought about,” Avril said of winning the NFC title on Jan. 19. “Rookie year I didn’t win any games, and then five, six years later I’m at the big show and hopefully about to win it. It’s been a long run, I guess, in a sense.”
In a sense, rookies on such awful teams are fortunate. They don’t know how bad things really are. Of course, in some ways they are unfortunate. They don’t get a foundation for how things are supposed to be.
“I didn’t recognize how bad it was,” Avril said. “I was a rookie just trying to get on the field and make plays. When the offseason rolled around, it hit me that we did not win any games. It was crazy, but I’m at the Super Bowl now so I can’t complain.
“I learned that I never want to go 0-16 again. I learned that, me personally, I have to keep working hard and not be the reason why we are losing.”
The 2013 Seahawks are known as a fun-loving, enthusiastic team, built around a coach, Pete Carroll, who fosters goodwill in his players. That wasn’t really anything like the 2008 Lions.
“I didn’t understand it,” Avril said. “Guys were kind of like individuals. I didn’t understand it but I thought that was the NFL. I was a rookie and didn’t know any better. It was a little different than what it is now.”
Avril said he talked himself through that season.
“That is not who I am, there is no giving up,” Avril said he kept telling himself. “I had to continue to keep grinding and put good film out there. I knew the new coach was coming in and I wanted to make a good impression on him. When you start off 0-16, you have to keep grinding and pushing on.”
Bronco linebacker Paris Lenon also was on that 2008 Detroit team.
“I’ll say this: when you’re in a situation like that, you have a certain amount of guys that pack it in,” Lenon said. “That’s difficult for me because I’m not that type of person. I’m going to compete to the end, so that’s the most difficult part about being in a situation like that. Now, it’s a complete reversal. Thus far, we’ve had a very successful season. We still have one game ahead of us and we have to put in the work. We have been putting in the work and we will continue to.”
Lenon said he hasn’t talked with Avril recently, “but I believe he was a rookie. He was a young guy. I would say this about him, he wasn’t one of the ones who packed it in. He was a young guy learning, eager, trying to improve. He’s developed into a really good player.”
I wrote a little about Lenon on Tuesday, how he is a veteran of the XFL and has carved out a long NFL career despite meager beginnings.
“I think you have to appreciate every year you’re in this league and not to make light of this situation at all, but first of all, you appreciate the position that you are in being a professional athlete,” Lenon said. “This is an added bonus to be in the biggest game.”