INDIANAPOLIS — You could hardly see Colt Lyerla through the thicket of reporters and cameras. He was seated at a round table inside the media room at Lucas Oil Stadium Thursday, surrounded by a large contingent of media that were firing off one probing question after the next. Once through the throng there he was, face flush, hands clasped tightly together in between his knees, revisiting a past that he is trying to escape.
“Probably the night I spent in jail,” responded Lyerla, when asked about the moment he realized his football career might be over. “That was huge for me, and like I said, it gave me time to self-reflect and realize that’s a place I never want to be again.”
The Oregon tight end was arrested back in October and charged with possession of cocaine, which he eventually plead guilty to. He was handed a 10-day jail sentence but ultimately spent the other nine days working on a county road crew rather than behind bars. A couple weeks prior to the incident he left the Oregon football program, citing personal reasons. He says that he has had limited contact with the Ducks coaching staff since, but plans on regaining their trust through his actions so he’s able “to go back to Oregon in good faith.”
Lyerla has not been in contact with Chip Kelly, who coached him for two years at Oregon. Does the fact that his former head coach is now in the pros give him extra hope that he’ll find a landing spot?
“I mean, of course,” he said. “I feel like me and Chip had a good player-coach relationship, and I’d love to play for the Eagles, so we’ll see what happens.”
Lyerla (6-5, 246) finished with 34 catches for 565 yards and 11 touchdowns in two-plus seasons at Oregon. His athletic gifts are undeniable but his numbers (save the catch-to-touchdown ratio) are unspectacular. In several respects, the NFL team that invests in him will be taking a leap of faith.
“He’s probably a first- or second-round talent,” said Mike Mayock, via Oregon Live. “Whether or not he gets drafted is part of the process going forward. Because of the talent, there will be be somebody on the third day that says, ‘OK, we’re now at the risk/reward part of the program where we’re willing to invest a fifth-round pick in this kid because he’s a first-round talent.'”
Because of the legal matters, the Hillsboro, Oregon native was not able to train for this combine as much as he would have liked. It will be interesting to see how he tests this week — both physically and in the interview process — and how it all plays out for Kelly’s former pupil.
“As much as I hate to say it, I think some of the mishaps that happened and me getting in trouble probably is the best thing that’s happened to me,” he said, “because it really put me at a point in place and gave me time to self reflect and just really helped me realize exactly what I want.”
WHAT YOU MISSED
Could we be looking at a “stop-gap” situation at safety in 2014? Howie Roseman brought up the possibility.
Might Chris Clemons be the answer if they do go mid-level? Sheil explores.
Steelers GM Kevin Colbert on identifying a good 3-4 outside linebacker.
Kapadia with three things to be on the lookout for at the combine.
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING
Roseman also made it clear that talk about quarterback competition is not a reflection on Nick Foles or his standing as the starting quarterback. From Reuben Frank:
Until now, Kelly and Roseman had been muted in their support of Foles, qualifying their praise of the 24-year-old second-year quarterback with comments about competition at quarterback and the possibility of drafting a quarterback.
But this was pretty definitive.
“I think that we have tremendous support for Nick,” Roseman said in a chat with Philly writers covering the combine. “I think we’ve been unquestioned about Nick. Even when we talk about Mike Vick, that there’s not an opportunity for a starting spot here, I think that’s a reflection on Nick Foles and where he is in his career.
Phil Sheridan mentions Missouri defensive end Kony Ealy as a possible target for the Eagles.
Everybody is talking about his teammate, Michael Sam, but Ealy is the Mizzou player most likely to go in the first round. At 6-foot-4 and 275 pounds, Ealy is closer to Chip Kelly’s physical specs.
Mayock has Ealy as his second highest-rated defensive end, behind only Jadeveon Clowney. But NFL Network’s Nolan Nawrocki says Ealy “could also draw looks as a 3-4 rush linebacker.” The combine will give Roseman, Kelly and defensive coordinator Bill Davis a firsthand look at him.
More from Indianapolis, including a closer look at how the Eagles are viewing the wide receiver situation.