During family night practice on Saturday, the Green Bay Packers‘ undrafted rookie Colt Lyerla suffered a significant knee injury that will see him sidelined for a several weeks, but not necessarily require surgery. This event may prove to be a positive for Lyerla and the organization in the long run. I do not want to come off as insensitive, nor do I want to seem like I am kicking a man when he is down. While Lyerla does possess good skills that could lead to a successful NFL career, he represents a far higher risk than the Packers can handle in a rookie tight end. His behavior on and off the field is a concern, as are his skills, which are there, but definitely need some work.
For those who are unfamiliar, the former Oregon tight end had an unfortunate childhood that has led to discipline issues in the past. He sent out an offensive tweet after the Sandy Hook massacre, has had multiple driving offenses which led to a suspended license, was suspended from the team twice while at Oregon, quit the team back in October 2013 and pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in the same month. I see three red flags already. He presented a lack of social media savvy, which gets athletes in trouble on almost a weekly basis. His driving record and cocaine charge demonstrate a lack of common sense and respect for the law. Finally, outbursts on the field and his overall lack of football related discipline make him a liability for any team. Playing with passion is one thing, but he clearly has a history of letting his emotions get the better of him. While a comparison to former tight end Aaron Hernandez is premature and blows his past infractions out of proportion, his record is an issue that cannot be overlooked.
His speed and natural athleticism are obvious and undeniable. Unfortunately he has some serious holes in his game that are often forgotten by those who blindly want to see him play in the NFL and simply shout “everyone deserves a second chance”. Apart from his speed and athleticism mentioned previously, his hands, strength and blocking ability are all questionable. He lacks the strength to be a good pass or run blocker at the NFL level, and with regard to his hands, drops were a problem in college and have been noticeable in the first week of camp as well. He needs some time to develop his skills more, and being placed on the injured reserve could give him a chance to up his game and get an opportunity later in the 2014 season or another chance next summer.
Obviously his goal was to make the team, but with his history and performance so far in training camp, a year to learn the system in Green Bay could be a great opportunity before he is thrown into the pressure of a full-time NFL position. Hopefully an older player or other member of the team infrastructure can mentor and keep an eye on him. As it stands, he has raw potential and some real skills, but his reactions to circumstances both on and off the field are a cause for concern.
Again, I don’t want to come across as an insensitive jerk who wants to put down a young man who has had a rough break in life, but none of the concerns about Lyerla are unfounded. Unacceptable behavior in college doesn’t always translate into unacceptable behavior in the NFL, but it often does. The Packers should practice “optimistic caution” when moving forward with the young tight end. Some time on the injured reserve or PUP list, coupled with some fine tuning of his skills later on after he is healed could make him a more ideal candidate for the position later in the season if another tight end becomes injured. Right now, as it stands, Lyerla did not stand out in the first week of camp; in fact he looked rusty after taking eight months off from the game. His injury could be a good thing for the team, and the time he may spend on the injured reserve could help him in the process of adapting to the NFL lifestyle.