<
>

Colt Lyerla's presence felt at OTAs

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If there was any doubt about Colt Lyerla being welcomed in Green Bay, the question was answered during his first appearance in a Packers uniform.

During Thursday's organized team activity, the first session that was open to the public, the former Oregon tight end with the troubled past received one of the loudest cheers of the day after he made a catch downfield.

"It's kind of weird; it's my first day, the fans are out there and saying my name," Lyerla said in his first comments since the Packers signed him May 19. "It made me happy, made feel good, so I can't complain."

The response has been similar in the locker room and around the team facility, where Lyerla arrived the hard way. After going undrafted and unsigned in the initial wave of rookie free agency, he came to Green Bay on a two-day tryout during rookie camp. Two days later, he signed with the team.

Lyerla's story, which has been told time and again, included a sudden departure from the Ducks' football program, followed by a cocaine arrest and controversial tweets about the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut.

Despite his production at Oregon, where he averaged nearly 17 yards per catch and scored 11 touchdowns in his first two seasons, and an off-the-charts workout at the NFL scouting combine, only the Packers were willing to give him a chance.

"I think they believe in second chances," Lyerla said. "Maybe they didn't read into some of the things that were said and decided to give a kid a chance, and that's what's happening."

Lyerla isn't the first player with a troubled past whom the Packers have taken. Last year, they brought back defensive tackle Johnny Jolly after a three-year absence from the NFL following drug arrests, prison time and a league suspension. However, they had a history with Jolly, who played four seasons for the Packers before his suspension. Perhaps the NFL's smallest city will be the perfect place for Lyerla to start over.

"Everybody is excited about helping a young man that's been through what he's been through," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. "Forget about the football part of it. We haven't really participated in this type of situation in the past. Colt just needs to be like everyone else.

"We're excited to impact this young man's life. Everything else will take care of itself professionally. I think this is a real credit to our program. I think this will be a real credit to the resources that we have, and this is what you're supposed to do."

Just as he did at the combine, Lyerla insisted that he has made the necessary life changes that will allow him to concentrate on football without the distractions in his past.

"I think I've spent the last six, seven months doing some hard thinking and making changes and doing the right things," he said. "I think me being here today shows that I am moving in the right direction."

Lyerla said no one from the Packers sat him down and gave him any ultimatums.

"Obviously, he knows that his past has brought him to where he is today," Packers tights end coach Jerry Fontenot said. "He's very aware of the mistakes that he's made, and hopefully he can stay on the right track and help us be a good football team."