Schwartz: 'This is a big year for Cliff'

Posted Aug 4, 2011

Thursday afternoon's practice marked the first that included the full team. With the CBA ratified, Detroit's unrestricted free agents, restricted free agents and exclusive rights players were given the green light to practice at approximately 4:55 p.m. ET.

Among those players was defensive end Cliff Avril, who signed his one-year tender today.

"I'm happy to be here," he said. "I trained with Kyle (Vanden Bosch) all offseason. I was anticipating being here and I'm happy to be here."

The fourth-year pro has gotten better with each season, benefitting from the additions of Corey Williams and Ndamukong Suh last year. The tandem created a consistent push up the middle, allowing Avril's No. 1 asset - speed - to pay off for Detroit.

Kyle Vanden Bosch has also had a positive impact on Avril, both on and off the field. The relentless veteran has not only been able to offer firsthand experience on the field and in the classroom, but his presence on the other side of the line has given Avril opportunity against opposing quarterbacks.

All of those factors helped Avril to a career-best 8.5 sacks last year.

"His speed rush ability and his athletic ability is very important to us," said Schwartz. "This is a big year for Cliff.”

Schwartz equated the Lions' defensive line to their wide receivers in that each player brings a unique and valuable skill set.

"The speed that he has is something that’s a little different than what Vanden Bosch brings, a little different than what LJ (Lawrence Jackson) brings," said Schwartz.

Now that Avril is able to practice, his No. 1 focus is football.

"I'm here to play football and get sacks," he said.