O'Hara: No harm, no losers, as Avril hits camp

Posted Aug 5, 2012

No harm, no foul. Not even a false start.

Cliff Avril’s standoff with the Lions came to a predictable end with no harm to either side when he signed his one-year tender and reported to training camp on Sunday.

In the short term, nobody got hurt in the friendliest contract dispute in Lions history. Avril has a guaranteed one-year contract that will pay him $10.6 million, under the franchise tag the Lions applied in March.

And the Lions have their best pass-rusher back at left defensive end. The Lions have high expectations for 2012, with a goal to improve on last year’s 10-6 record and the first playoff appearance since 1999.

Avril is a big piece of what the Lions hope to accomplish. He has an upbeat personality and sounded eager to join his teammates, based on his statement on Twitter Sunday morning: “back to work, let’s get it.”

Avril is a dynamic athlete coming off his best season, with 11 sacks, six forced fumbles, four pass breakups and an interception return for a touchdown.

It can be debated how much Avril’s success is tied to the overall strength of the Lions’ defensive line, but his production is undeniable. The defensive scheme puts him in position to make plays, and he delivers.He’s a closer. He finishes plays. And at 26, Avril is an ascending player coming into his prime.

Avril wasn’t out of camp long enough for his absence to have a negative impact on his performance. The first regular season game is five weeks away – Sept. 9 against the Rams at Ford Field. There is plenty of time to get in game shape.

Under NFL rules, Avril is eligible to practice in pads for the first time Wednesday – two days before the first preseason game against Cleveland at Ford Field. Avril did not participate in the Lions’ offseason workouts – including mini-camp – but he attended several events staged by his teammates.

By not accepting the Lions’ last offer – reportedly a three-year deal worth $30 million with $20 million guaranteed in the first year – Avril is betting on himself that his performance in 2012 will lead to a bigger payday when he hits free-agency again next year.

Under NFL rules, the Lions cannot negotiate a long-term deal with Avril until after this season. They also can franchise him next year, but with a 20-percent increase in pay, or $12.7 million.

There wasn’t a shred of animosity apparent. In his many interviews, Avril stressed that it was strictly business, nothing personal.

In an interview earlier this week, General Manager Martin Mayhew expressed disappointment over not having a long-term deal with Avril but said he respects Avril’s stand.

“If there’s anything positive to take from it or that was encouraging for me, was he’s very optimistic about how he’s going to perform this season,” Mayhew said. “He’s willing to bet on himself, and I respect that about him. “He was willing to bet on himself and bet he’s going to outperform what was on the table, and I like that.”