Seahawks coach Pete Carroll didn't offer any guarantees on when or whether defensive end Cliff Avril will return to the team this season.

Share story

The Seahawks know veteran defensive end Cliff Avril will miss Sunday’s game against the Rams in Los Angeles.

But it’s not just when he will return that remains unclear, but whether he ever will, based on comments by coach Pete Carroll on Wednesday.

Avril suffered neck and spine injuries during Sunday’s 46-18 win over the Colts. His head snapped back after being hit on the chin by the heel of Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett while diving to make a tackle in the first quarter. Avril suffered “serious stingers,’’ Carroll said, that caused numbness in his hands. Carroll said Wednesday that Avril is not experiencing symptoms but added that he won’t be cleared to play until tests are completed.

When asked if Avril’s injury could be long term, Carroll gave an answer that indicated that he might not play again.

Most Read Sports Stories

Unlimited Digital Access: $1 for 4 weeks

“Could be (long term),’’ Carroll said. “Could be. We are going to go very slowly and make sure that he takes all the opportunity to talk to as many people as he wants to to make sure he knows what he’s got and what we need to do with it. We are just going to take care of him and make sure that he is well. And if he wants to come back and we want to bring him back we’ll let you know when we know. But right now we don’t.’’

Avril turned 31 in April after having one of the best seasons of his 10-year career in 2016. He made the Pro Bowl for the first time after leading the Seahawks in sacks with 11.5.

He signed with the Seahawks as a free agent in spring 2013 after spending five years with Detroit, which took him in the third round of the 2008 NFL draft out of Purdue.

Avril has started every game since 2014, a streak of 52 that will end Sunday.

“We’re going to take some time and make sure we evaluate him well, like we talked about (on Monday), and we’ll hold him out,’’ Carroll said Wednesday.

Avril signed a four-year, $28.5 million contract extension with the Seahawks in December 2014 that takes him through the 2018 season. His $7 million salary in 2018 is not guaranteed, and he has an $8 million salary cap hit with only $500,000 in dead money, which had led to some conjecture about whether he would return next season.

The Seahawks will turn to third-year player Frank Clark to replace Avril in the starting lineup, with Marcus Smith backing up and seeing increased playing time.

Smith, who was signed in July after being waived by the Eagles, had his best game as a Seahawk on Sunday with 1.5 sacks including forcing a fumble that was recovered by Bobby Wagner for a touchdown.

“He’s raring to go,’’ Carroll said of Clark, the team’s second-round draft pick out of Michigan in 2015. “He’s really excited about the chance to play more snaps. He’s a guy that can play with a huge motor, a well-conditioned guy, can play a lot of plays. The more he plays the more things can happen all over the field. Really a great time for him to get a good workload. … We are in OK shape as far as replacing Cliff. We think those guys can do a good job.’’

Avril was not available to the media Wednesday but attended practice.

In 2015 he talked at length with The Times’ Jayson Jenks about understanding the reality that a football career can end at any moment and how his perspective changed after having two sons.

“I think you have to be aware of it,” he says, “but you can’t be afraid of it coming.”

At that time, he recalled suffering a concussion that knocked him out of Super Bowl XLIX, and one suffered while with the Lions that scared him so greatly it made him briefly consider the costs of playing football.

“I freaked myself out, because I just had my son,” he said. “I was like, ‘If I was to ever have something that bad happen again, I would really consider retiring.’ How much money do you really need to live off of? …. Just like you want to take care of your kids, I want to take care of my kids. What good does it do to make a whole bunch of money and then you’re 40 years old and don’t remember how you did it?”