Fighting your own demons is tough enough as it is, but when you’re a member of either a Division I college football team or an NFL franchise, that task can seem downright impossible.
That is the quest that stands before Green Bay Packers rookie tight end Colt Lyerla.
If you aren’t already aware, Lyerla has quite the backstory. He came from a broken home and moved from house to house as a child. It became clear in high school he was a freak athlete and signed on at the University of Oregon where he was once touted as a potential first round NFL draft pick.
Unfortunately for Lyerla, he never could quite stay out of trouble. He was suspended during the 2013 season from Oregon and later quit the team, a move Lyerla later said he regretted. Lyerla soon after was arrested for cocaine possession. He also in the past tweeted about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary being a government conspiracy.
Thanks to these incidents, Lyerla went undrafted in this spring’s NFL Draft. In the modern NFL, talent on the field is useless if you can’t stay out of trouble off of it.
After the draft, the Packers offered Lyerla a tryout and soon after he was signed to a contract. For all their talk about “Packer People,” general manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy seemingly rolled the dice with Lyerla.
Had the Packers sold their soul in order to win or are they simply trying to give a talented but troubled player a shot at redemption in a structured organization with a strong and tight-knit locker room?
The money should be on the latter. The fact that the Packers brought back Johnny Jolly last year and previously signed a troubled Koren Robinson says the Packers believe they have what it takes to help troubled players and turn them into not just good players but upstanding citizen as well.
All of us make mistakes. Even this writer a few weeks ago had Colin Kaepernick nailed to the wall because he allegedly smoked some pot in Miami. I took to Twitter and proceeded to make a total fool of myself. I have since apologized and acknowledged I was dead wrong in that situation. I was uneducated on the matter and leapt foolishly to a conclusion. It was my fault.
While that is small compared to what Lyerla has been through, if someone makes a genuine apology and true to rectify a bad situation they should be given another chance. Thompson must have thought Lyerla was sincere because he wouldn’t have signed him to a contract if he believed otherwise, even one that undoubtedly contains little-to-no guaranteed money.
If Lyerla acts up, he will be cut and the Packers can move on. The Green Bay locker room can handle that happening. In fact, this team might be the best thing for Lyerla. A veteran locker room with down to earth players might be just the thing he needs to get his life on track.
This won’t be Thompson’s worst decision ever. In fact, it could turn out to be one of his finest hours if Lyerla pans out. It’d be a stroke of genius.
Lyerla has a long road to go but it’d be one of the great stories in the league if he can keep clean and like up to his once promising potential.
That’s a story Packer Nation could be proud of.——————
Kris Burke is a sports writer covering the Green Bay Packers for AllGreenBayPackers.com and WTMJ in Milwaukee. He is a member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA) and his work has been linked to by sites such as National Football Post and CBSSports.com. Follow @KrisLBurke