Seattle Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett says Cliff Avril came close to being paralyzed after a devastating neck injury.
Bennett spoke to reporters Thursday afternoon at the VMAC in Renton.
“Not to have him out there on the football field is devastating, but to see what he’s going through personally is more devastating,” Bennett said.
“It’s one of those things where you want to be able to walk away from the game the way you want to walk away from the game. And to suffer an injury of any magnitude, especially one where you could have easily been paralyzed. It’s something that you have to be able to try to move forward past. It’s always devastating to lose a guy and his future is uncertain. Nobody knows what is going to happen and for me I take that personally.”
Coach Pete Carroll has said Avril and Kam Chancellor, who also suffered a neck injury, are consulting with doctors and family members about the future of their careers. Avril underwent surgery Tuesday on a disk in his neck, Carroll said.
Avril tweeted: “The road to recovery has begun!!! Thanks for all the prayer and love.”
Doctors say, in general, the length of recovery could be vastly different depending on how severely nerves have been damaged.
“If nerves have to recover from the neck all the way down to the fingertips, that’s a long road of recovery that usually takes about 1-2 years,” said Dr. Michele Arnold, a physiatrist at Swedish Medical Center. “But if it’s just the nerves to the shoulder that were affected … some of those recover faster but you’re still looking at 6-9 months.”
Bennett said it's tough for fans to understand the real life repercussions of game injuries.
"A lot of times fans aren't connected to the injury part of the game. They're more connected to whether their fantasy league points are high or fantasy league points are low," he said. "And when guys are really injured for life-altering injuries. I'm not talking about achilles or ACL. I'm talking about neck injuries and those type of injuries that can last forever. Those are the types of injuries that fans don't understand what you go through personally."
The club has been very supportive, Bennett said, just like a family.
"For him and me and the rest of the guys it's a personal journey that we are going through with him as he goes through it. So we're making sure he has a lot of people who care about him. This is a great organization that continuously shows it cares about its players unlike most teams in the NFL," Bennett said. "Injuries are a part of the game, but that doesn't make it any easier."