DE Cliff Avril rejoins Lions

Cliff Avril welcomed a son Wednesday night and returned to work

less than 24 hours later.

The Detroit Lions’ defensive end signed a one-year qualifying

offer Thursday morning and joined the rest of the team’s free

agents on the practice field for the first time. The restricted

free agent could be in for quite a haul by the end of the

season.

”This is a big year for Cliff,” coach Jim Schwartz said of

Avril, whose deal is worth about $3 million. ”He’s always been

productive when he’s been on the field but as far as being healthy

and playing 16 games, it’s a big thing for him.

”His speed-rush ability, his athletic ability, it’s very

important to us.”

The four-year veteran had a career-best 8 1/2 sacks last season

while starting all 13 games he played.

He has 19 career sacks and eight forced fumbles, both better

numbers than Kansas City’s Tamba Hali, who signed a five-year, $60

million deal on Wednesday.

”More motivation,” Avril said after hearing the comparison of

career stats. ”It’s good to see guys get money (if they get) after

the quarterback, and hopefully I can be one of those guys.”

He should get plenty of chances to make an impact playing next

to tackles Ndamukong Suh and Corey Williams, each of whom should be

disruptive in the middle of what could be one the NFL’s best

defensive lines. Injured rookie Nick Fairley, who’ll miss several

weeks after foot surgery, will add even more power up the middle

when he returns.

Kyle Vanden Bosch lines up on the strong side and should get

plenty of attention from opposing defenses.

”I’m here to play football and get sacks,” Avril said. ”I’ll

let my play work for me and we’ll go from there.

”If the (defensive line) sticks together, we can do some great

things. I trained with Kyle during the offseason, so why wouldn’t I

want to be here?”

Lions president Tom Lewand said the franchise is committed to

keeping a young core of players together, but would not say if the

team was negotiating a longer deal. Avril said he would leave any

such matters to his agent and didn’t feel the lack of a long-term

deal would be a frustration during the coming season. He added that

he hopes he’s in Detroit’s long-term plans.

”I was part of the 0-16 (2008) team and I definitely want to be

on a championship team here,” he said.

He and his fellow free agents had to wait a few minutes to hit

the field Thursday afternoon while the team awaited word of the

ratification of the collective bargaining agreement. They made a

dramatic entrance, coming from under a half-closed roll-up door

while shouting ”we’re free” about eight minutes after the rest of

the team began stretching.

The Lions delayed the start of practice more than 30 minutes

while they waited for word from the league office that the NFL year

had officially begun.

Avril’s son Xavier – a future basketball player – his father

insists, was resting comfortably with his mother at the

hospital.