Typecast

While not in the same class of athlete as David Terrell, Dustin Lyman has something in common with the former first-round pick. They're both waiting for an opportunity to play consistently.

In four year in Chicago Lyman has gone through a lot. When the team drafted him in the third-round of the 2000 draft they decided to convert the college linebacker back to his high school position of tight end.

The transition took time catching just one ball in his first two seasons as a pro.

"When you change positions you pretty much start at the bottom and try to develop a reputation for yourself," Lyman said. "It's difficult because every mistake you make it's hard to get that out of the coaches mind. I made a lot of mistakes when I was a first and second year player. But in my mind they were unavoidable because I'm not going to come in and go from playing defense to playing offense and not make any mistakes. It's unrealistic."

However in his third season in the league Lyman started to look like an NFL tight end. Injuries moved him up the depth chart and he took advantage of consecutive starts ten receptions for 82 yards, but during a 7-catch two-touchdown performance against Green Bay he injured his left knee and went on Injured Reserve the following week.

A tear in his left anterior cruciate ligament required offseason surgery and there was some question if Lyman would be ready by the start of the 2003 campaign.

Remarkably Lyman was ready for the team's spring practices and went full go throughout training camp. Still without knowing how fast Lyman would recover and needing to add talent at tight end, the team signed Desmond Clark to a six-year deal.

Clark was brought to Chicago to start and having a 51-reception season to his credit he was by far and away the most established option the team had at tight end.

Leaving Lyman in a situation he has been in for the majority of his time with the Bears.

"I've always had someone ahead of me," Lyman said. "The only time I get a chance to really show what I've got is when the person ahead of me is hurt. I feel like they underestimate me."

Other players on the Bears 53-man roster could make the same case, particularly David Terrell. While Terrell's maturity is questionable there is no doubting his talent level.

The coaching staff has branded players like Lyman and Terrell has secondary contributors. Lyman may disagree, but as an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year he will likely have to prove his case elsewhere.

"I'm looking to be a starter and if I can't be a starter in Chicago then I'll be a starter somewhere else," Lyman said. "It's hard position because there is only one tight end that starts. It's not like linebacker where there is three starters or wide receiver."


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