Lions seem complete again with Avril now at training camp

Posted Aug 5, 2012

Lions defensive end Cliff Avril sat a small table with offensive tackle Jeff Backus taking pictures and signing a few autographs with fans Sunday night, just like 89 of his fellow teammates.

Avril was back in his No. 92 jersey after a nine-day holdout ended Sunday morning with Avril signing his $10.6 million franchise tender.

“I’m happy to be back with the team and ready to get this thing rolling and try to have a successful season,” Avril told reporters before an autograph and photo session with fans that preceded the team’s open practice at Ford Field as part of the Coach's Kickoff event.

“I hope (the fans) don’t boo me,” he joked.

Avril said he always planned on reporting to training camp Sunday after spending the weekend celebrating his son Xavier’s first birthday, which was Friday.

“He comes first and I was fortunate enough to spend his first birthday with him,” Avril said. “Once I new I was being franchised I took it as a positive and spent that day with my son and then took a day off for myself and here we are.”

The Lions are hoping Avril begins his training camp right where he left off in 2011. Avril led the Lions in sacks (11) and forced fumbles (6) last season. He became the first Lions player since sacks became an official statistic in 1982 to register 10-plus sacks, one fumble return touchdown and one interception return touchdown in a season. Avril’s just the sixth player in NFL history to accomplish that feat.

“It’s exciting to get a player we consider our franchise player back in the building,” said team captain Dominic Raiola. “Now it feels like we have a complete team because there was something missing, but (we) really didn’t want to say anything about it.”

Avril missed eight practices during his holdout, but didn’t seem too concerned about the missed time when asked about it Sunday. He actually joked that the only thing he missed was “soreness.”

“I don’t think it will affect me too much,” he said. “I wanted to get back so I could get my legs back under me and try to help this team get to the Super Bowl.”

Avril said he doesn’t expect to play in Friday’s preseason opener against the Browns at Ford Field, though. Avril can’t be in pads the first two practices he participates in -- per NFL rules -- and the Lions are off Tuesday. That doesn’t seem like enough time to get in game shape.

Asked about getting one of his defensive lineman back into the meeting room and onto the practice field, defensive tackle Nick Fairley said he was just happy to have a complete defensive line room again.

“He came in and said ‘what’s up’ to everybody and it was like a normal workday,” Fairley said. “It’s good to have him back in the room. Everyone is there now and we’re ready to get to work and put the pieces together.”

Avril, who played on a one-year restricted free agent contract in 2011, will again be an unrestricted free agent again next offseason. He said Sunday he wasn’t worrying about that now.

“I had to go through it last year,” he said. “I was on a one-year deal last year and I really didn’t think about it, honestly. It’s all about making plays for the team and winning some games. I’m not too worried about the contract stuff right now.”