Packers Have Little to Lose, Everything to Gain with Colt Lyerla Signing

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystMay 19, 2014

USA Today

During his tenure with the Green Bay Packers, general manager Ted Thompson has developed a reputation as one of the NFL's best at what he does. That reputation has been built on the Packers' ability to identify and groom young talent in-house.

It's far from guaranteed that Thompson will have success in that regard with former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla, but in giving the youngster a chance to turn his life around, Thompson and the Packers are taking a minimal risk that could pay huge dividends down the road.

Bleacher Report NFL National Lead Writer Matt Miller was among those to report the Packers signed Lyerla, who was in Titletown for rookie minicamp on a tryout basis:

That talent was on display at February's scouting combine in Indianapolis. Lyerla's 4.61-second 40-yard dash time was third among tight ends. Lyerla led all tight ends with a 39-inch vertical leap, and his 128-inch broad jump placed second at the position.

In light of that performance, it surprised some when Lyerla not only wasn't drafted, but also didn't draw much interest early in the free-agent feeding frenzy that follows the draft.

Given all that happened before it, it shouldn't have.

As Josh Katzowitz of CBS Sports pointed out, Lyerla's prospect page at the site reads more like the police blotter than a scouting report:

[Lyerla] abruptly quit the team on Oct. 6, calling his choice to leave the Ducks as a "personal decision." This occurred after missing the Ducks' Sept. 14 game against Tennessee for what Lyerla later called the stomach flu but head coach Mark Helfrich characterized simply as "circumstances." Arrested Oct. 23, 2013 when undercover police discovered inhaling a "white powdery substance" inside a car. Lyerla later admitted the substance was cocaine. This was hardly Lyerla's only run-in with police. He had his driver's license suspended Oct. 11, 2013 after receiving four driving tickets in the previous 24 months.

So Lyerla languished, waiting for that call, the second chance he told reporters at the combine (via Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) he knows is his last:

I put myself in a position where my back's against the wall, to the point that if I don't do everything perfect and the right way, I won't be able to play football, let alone be successful in any shape or form.

The Packers brought Lyerla in for a tryout, but head coach Mike McCarthy made it clear to Silverstein that Lyerla was no different than any of the other first-year players trying to earn a trip to training camp:

Colt is just like the other 58. He's one of the 58. He's done things in his college career and (we're) fully aware of everything that every prospect's done on and off the field. And with that we feel he's earned the opportunity as a tryout player to earn a spot to go to training camp.

With that said, it's not hard to imagine the Packers wanting Lyerla to be a lot more than a camp body.

The Packers are hurting at the tight end position. The team remains optimistic that Jermichael Finley will return to football at some point, but a scary neck injury and subsequent surgery leave his playing future very much in doubt.

The Packers used a third-round pick on Cal's Richard Rodgers, but with all due respect to the 6'4" 257-pounder, had Lyerla not imploded in 2013, he would have been ranked quite a bit higher than Rodgers on most boards.

Of course, Lyerla did implode, and there are those, Bleacher Report's own Greg Gabriel among them, who think this is much ado about nothing:

Maybe Gabriel's right, but the Packers have little to lose by finding out. If he's late to practices or mouths off to coaches like he did in Eugene, Lyerla will be shown the door posthaste.

But maybe, just maybe, Lyerla has really learned his lesson and will be on his best behavior in practice. Maybe the small-town feel of Green Bay (unlike any other franchise home in the NFL) will help keep Lyerla out of trouble.

Maybe Lyerla will provide the Packers with the target over the middle they need with Finley out and James Jones gone, making the most of this second chance in the process.

At any rate, there's only one way to find out.


Gary Davenport is an NFL Analyst at Bleacher Report and a member of the Fantasy Sports Writers Association and the Pro Football Writers of America. You can follow Gary on Twitter @IDPManor.