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Cliff Avril “clarifies” tampering comments

Cliff Avril AP

On Thursday, Lions defensive end Cliff Avril strongly hinted during a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview that tampering is happening as he prepares to hit the free-agency market.

“I kind of think the Lions will try to do the right thing, I guess,” Avril said. “A lot of teams don’t think the Lions will let me hit free agency. But a few teams have called.”

On Friday, Avril tried to put the toothpaste back in the tampering tube.

No other teams, per se, like general managers or anybody has called me or anything like that,” Avril told the Detroit Free Press.  “But I know a lot of guys that I’ve played with or guys that have seen me play have told me that their coaches have brought me up in a sense of, ‘Dang, that guy can play; wouldn’t mind having him-type thing.’  Never official-type things or anything like that.”

Um.  Yeah.

Look, if that’s what he meant, that’s what he should have said.  When he says “a few teams have called,” the message is that, well, a few teams have called.  As in they’ve called his agent to find out things like whether Avril would be interested in that team and, more importantly, how much money he wants.

It’s easy to be skeptical of Avril’s clarification because anyone who follows the NFL even remotely closely knows that teams are calling agents of players who will be free agents on March 13.  It happens every year.

How else do guys get onto planes to visit new teams at five minutes after the moment free agency opens?  How else do multi-multi-multi-million-dollar deals get negotiated — from scratch — in a matter of a few hours?  The agent know where to focus once the green flag is waved because the race begins long before the green flag even shows up at the track.

But Avril’s “clarification” apparently is good enough for the league office.  NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told the Free Press that the comments are “hearsay” and do not constitute tampering.

Fine, but the first comments constitute clear evidence of tampering.  But the league office is reluctant to investigate matters of these nature because:  (1) everyone tampers; and (2) nailing someone for tampering requires the league to admit that one or more of its teams is cheating.

That’s why the NFL only enforces the tampering rules when a team essentially is caught with one hand in the cookie jar and with the other is giving the league office the finger.  (Yeah, I’ve used that one before.  But only because I continue to be as cool as the other side of the pillow.)  Nearly nine years ago, former NFL safety Lawyer Milloy inadvertently blew the whistle on the Redskins for making an offer before the Patriots cut him, in an interview with Peter King of SI.com.  Once Milloy “clarified” his comments, the league looked the other way.

And so it continues to make sense for the league to change the rules to create a window in which teams can call before a player can sign.  Without that change, cheating technically is happening on a rampant basis, and the league office comes off as toothless, incompetent, and/or apathetic.  I babbled a bit about the dynamic during Friday’s PFT Live, and this is as good a place as any to drop in the code for the video.

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23 Responses to “Cliff Avril “clarifies” tampering comments”
  1. thelomasbrowns says: Feb 18, 2012 10:09 AM

    “That’s why the NFL only enforces the tampering rules when a team essentially is caught with one hand in the cookie jar and with the other is giving the league office the finger. ”

    Or that team is the Lions.

  2. matthewcarlson1 says: Feb 18, 2012 10:12 AM

    HAHA nobody wants that clown.

  3. quittsburghstoolers says: Feb 18, 2012 10:13 AM

    They need to change the rules.

    Obviously, nobody is following them anyways.
    They have to sneak around and do things “on the sly”.

    Only the most inept get “caught” and punished for this…

  4. steelerhypocrite says: Feb 18, 2012 10:17 AM

    It’s a little easier to put up good numbers when Suh is getting double and triple teamed…this guy is average. Detroit is going over estimate all their guys, when only Suh and Megatron (maybe Stafford) are irreplaceable.

  5. dewalt2990 says: Feb 18, 2012 10:18 AM

    thats why they invented evidence, because you cant trust what someone says.

  6. realitypolice says: Feb 18, 2012 10:20 AM

    Why do you care so much about tampering?

  7. tombradysbaby says: Feb 18, 2012 10:36 AM

    I don’t see a problem here. If the Lions dumped him they would just say it was a business decision. Well shopping yourself around to find the right place is also a business decision.

    Every team bends the rules, and it should be no surprise that players and agents do it as well.

  8. realnflmaster says: Feb 18, 2012 10:48 AM

    Oh big deal, a team “tampered” I’d want teams to tamper with me too if I played for Buffalo, Tampa, Jacksonville, Minnesota, Detroit, Cleveland and Philthadelphia.

  9. nygdefenserules says: Feb 18, 2012 10:59 AM

    Change the rules already!!!!!

    Allow potential free agents to start meeting with teams and getting offer sheets starting one week after the Super Bowl.

    However, no one can SIGN any contracts until the new league year begins. This gives the FA’s current team a chance to match to keep their guys if he wants to stay.

    I guess this makes too much sense.

    Only flaw is that the Super Bowl Champions are in “parade and celebration” mode and may be behind the FA preparation time. But, if they just won, how many FA’s are they going to need? It’s like picking last in the draft…just a mild disadvantage.

  10. sportsmeccabi says: Feb 18, 2012 11:04 AM

    Just use Belichick’s quick fix: “I miss interpreted the rules”.

  11. cliffordc05 says: Feb 18, 2012 11:08 AM

    It is absurd to think that there are no discussions between agents and teams about free agent players. Is it tampering if a team executive is talking to an agent about one client and the agent then asks if the team will be interested in another client when free agency happens. Even if the team indicates no interest it has supplied the agent with information of value. The rules stop the most egregious and stupid tampering cases and that is all you can expect. I don’t think it makes the rules toothless or the enforcement a joke. It makes them look reasonable.

  12. bcgreg says: Feb 18, 2012 11:32 AM

    @ cliffordco5

    Yes, that’s tampering (ie cheating)

    @ sportsmeccabi

    It’s “misinterpreted” not “miss interpreted”. There’s no beauty pagaent going on here.

    Newsflash, cheating happens in EVERY sport wether on the field or in the front office. It’s just a fact. In the NFL, tampering is cheating. Salary Cap Circumvention is cheating. What’s the old saying? If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t trying. Or my favorite from Jesse Ventura, “Win if you can. Lose if you must, but always cheat!”

    I’m kidding of course, but you get my point. It happens.

  13. chiadam says: Feb 18, 2012 11:43 AM

    Does the league know what hearsay is? They should. They’re run by a lawyer. If Avril had said that his agent told him a few teams are calling, that’s your hearsay. One person saying someone else said something.

  14. skrappie32 says: Feb 18, 2012 11:50 AM

    Yeah the Lions had to swap draft picks with KC in the 5th round of last years draft because of Tamping charges just because Gunther was talking to one of his old players.Now that were are one the flip side of the deal this time it’s all good ah what a joke.
    Find out who the few teams are and have them do just what the Lions had to do in that same situation, as a long time lion fan im am sick and tired of getting kick in the teeth with the oh it just the Lions no big deal, well time for that crap to stop.

  15. lunarpie says: Feb 18, 2012 12:06 PM

    Cliff Avril needs to be taught how to deal with the media. He is making an accusation with zero supportive information. Every team in the NFL is now aware of the tampering claim. You can be sure they will remember this claim when they are deciding whether or not to make him part of their organizatioin. Someone needs to tell him to keep his mouth shut!

  16. bigjimatch says: Feb 18, 2012 12:13 PM

    I don’t think anyone really cares about tampering.

  17. LoCoSu@%s says: Feb 18, 2012 12:16 PM

    It all depends on Goodell’s perspective. He never lets facts get in the way of his arbitrary decisions.

  18. noeffinway says: Feb 18, 2012 12:50 PM

    Avril needs to tell the entire story and let the league know who these teams were that called. Would love to see the Lions be rewarded a few extra draft picks!

  19. bsizemore68 says: Feb 18, 2012 1:11 PM

    Rules and what goes on are 2 difference things, many years ago a boss from another company came by where I was working and stop and exchange a few words with me, my boss called me in and wanted to know what the guy wanted, I said he wanted to offer me 2 dollars per hour to come and work for him, doing the same type of work, my boss wanted to know what I was going to do, I said it would depend on what my pay check looked like on pay day. This is why they don’t want people talking about how much you make, its how the owners suppress pay, just because you work under a contract, you should always be looking at what other people in your field of work is getting paid, there job is to get you to work as cheap as possible. Bill

  20. rushmatic says: Feb 18, 2012 3:59 PM

    No one cares about violating the rules, period; unless the team you’re referring to is a winning team.

    Look at the Patriots. If they hadn’t just won a few SB’s, would anyone really care that they were videotaping from an illegal place on the field?

    No.

  21. mjkelly77 says: Feb 18, 2012 5:24 PM

    Avril was tampered with. He’s backtracking because he doesn’t want to queer the deal with an already interested party with whom he might sign. Why penalize a team that you may be going to?

  22. mjkelly77 says: Feb 18, 2012 5:27 PM

    If “everyone tampers”, why did the Lions get screwed last year? They lose a sixth rounder this draft because “everyone tampers”.

  23. radiofriendly420 says: Feb 18, 2012 7:38 PM

    Methinks the Lions are owed a draft pick or 2. Isn’t that what is supposed to happen when tampering occurs?

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