Cocaine possession. Chronic lateness to practice and team meetings. A suspension handed down by his team. Spouting conspiracy theories about Sandy Hook on twitter. There is SO much not to like wrapped up in a package that, outwardly, has tremendous potential. Colt Lyerla, formerly of Oregon, was a hot-button name in the run-up to the 2014 NFL Draft. Some feel his upside even exceeds that of Eric Ebron, the new diva/weapon of our own rival Detroit Lions and the consensus top TE in this year's draft class. Few would argue that his red flags surpass all others at the position as well. I, like many others, wondered aloud, "Will someone even give this kid a tryout? Does he deserve a second/third/twelfth chance?"
Like it or not, Green Bay has just done it. It's hard to reconcile the dichotomy of our granting him an opportunity. Our hometown powerhouse has a reputation for having a strong and supportive locker room. The community obviously needs no real mention as being one of tremendous support and encouragement in general, and that energy is only elevated further when trained upon it's beloved Packers. But despite that fierce loyalty, we have also bought into the notion of "Packer People". There is an assumption that we hold high character as a paramount attribute when evaluating talent, and moreso than other teams. That may just be a PR fabrication, but more than espousing role models and maintaining the folksy core that gives the Packers a unique brand, it's also a way of protecting your investments. There are far too many precedents currently for any team to overlook gross character concerns especially as they pertain to criminal and drug activity.
At 6'4", 292 with a 39" vertical and a 4.61 forty time, Lyerla seems like his potential would have a home anywhere. But for the moment, he is without, and staring at a faint chance to join the ranks of a perennial Super Bowl contender. You look at all the police reports cropping up involving both the stars and bottom-of-the-roster types of the league, and it can be disheartening and perplexing. I can only imagine the fans of people like Justin Blackmon and Josh Gordon that could be superstars if only they could get out of their own way. But you see people like Vontaze Burfict who was a headcase in college get his shot in Cincinnati and he's killing it right now. And our own behemoth, Johnny Jolly, struggled so publicly with his own addiction only to be sent to prison and rose from the proverbial ashes. His story was one of the more compelling tales I've heard told of an NFL player struggling with his own demons, and to see the support that the players had consistently given him throughout his ordeal and then the coaching staff upon his return truly struck a chord with me. I'll still be pulling for him even if not in the Green and Gold this year. Could he be an inspiration to the front office to gut it out with another troubled young man?
As the story goes, Lyerla has had a trying and checkered past. In high school, he was part of a program that stressed discipline and accountability and he supposedly flourished both in the class and on the football field. In college the wheels completely came off. There's little to lose in giving him a tryout when his ceiling is so high, and with his substance abuse issues perhaps no one has even seen what he can do at full health. It's when his status affects those around him that the stakes are raised, but we're a long way from that. I think that we have a better shot than most of providing an ideal situation for Colt to get himself right. I sincerely hope, regardless of whether he makes the 53 or even the PS, he rapidly makes these horrible choices part of a recent but simultaneously distant history. This opportunity is a gift; I hope he can appreciate that and it can be the first of many positives that he encounters and engenders. Go Pack Go.