Lyerla, the Green Bay Packers' talented rookie tight end, faces an uphill battle to make the roster, despite the lack of proven talent at the position. He barely played in 2013 before quitting at Oregon. He went undrafted and unsigned, despite one of the top tight end workouts at the Scouting Combine, due in large part to an ugly past that includes an arrest for cocaine and bizarre comments about the Sandy Hook school shooting.
The Packers decided to give Lyerla a second chance, taking a low-risk gamble by signing him after he tried out at the rookie minicamp.
"I was kind of surprised (by the cheers)," Lyerla said after Thursday's practice. "I'm pretty far away from home. Yeah, I couldn't ask for a warmer welcome."
Poised for a breakout junior season after scoring 11 touchdowns out of his 34 receptions as a freshman and sophomore. Lyerla played in just three games as a junior before his career went terribly off track. He called that a "low point" of his life.
"I didn't have any support. I was stuck in Eugene (Oregon) because of things that had happened," he said. "I was trying not to get evicted at that time. A lot more important things to think about than football at that time."
During his time out of the game, Lyerla admits he thought his football career might be over. That feeling was amplified after the draft.
"I'm just really excited to be back out on the field again," he said. "From everything that happened, for me to have this opportunity to be here, I really couldn't ask for anything more than that. I'm just excited to see what happens from here."
Lyerla said he has not been given any ultimatums by the team or told of a zero-tolerance policy. Coach Mike McCarthy is intrigued by Lyerla's potential, but his interest runs far beyond the football field.
"We're excited to impact this young man's life," he said. "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."
Lyerla says he is appreciative of the opportunity he's been given. If that is true and he truly has changed his life, the Packers have an intriguing young talent to mold.
"The past is the past," he said. "I'm obviously excited to move on and I'm excited to see what happens in the future and see what I can do to help this football team. Whether that be on special teams or tight end or water boy. Whatever it is, whatever I've got to do."
Absent: WR Davante Adams and DE Khyri Thornton were at the NFL's Rookie Premiere; DE Jerel Worthy was absent as his grandmother was shot and in critical condition. According to WHIO, she was accidentally shot in the head by her husband, James. Out due to injuries: RB Johnathan Franklin, OLB Clay Matthews, OLB Nick Perry, TE Andrew Quarless, TE Brandon Bostick. McCarthy does not provide injury updates during these voluntary practices.
— Micah Hyde, not first-round pick HaHa Clinton-Dix, was the starting safety with Morgan Burnett. "I have no idea. I can't even answer that question," Hyde said when asked if he is now a full-time safety. "I'm coming in trying to learn as much as possible. I got some experience last year with the nickel and the dime, and this I'm just kind of putting that last piece together since I already knew corner. I'm just trying to learn what everyone's supposed to be doing in the secondary. I don't know what their plan is for me, but hopefully I get an opportunity to be on the field. That's what I came here to do."
— Speaking on NBC Sports' "Pro Football Talk Live," Blake Baratz, the agent for tight end Jermichael Finley, said Finley was cleared by Joseph Maroon, the Steelers' neurosurgeon and the doctor who fused Finley's C-3 and C-4 vertebrae. "The interesting thing with Jermichael's injury, because it's the spine and the neck, everyone's going to overly, overly cautious before putting him in a situation of going back on the field," Baratz said. "And opinions can be subjective. Dr. Maroon's opinion may not be the opinion of 31 other team doctors. So right now, based on the fact that this just happened, now a lot of the teams that are interested in Jermichael are getting copies of the films, he's going to start taking visits actually tomorrow, and the process will start moving along. He may not be 100 percent there yet, but he's very close. He's working out, he's in phenomenal shape, he can do everything right now, the question is just whether everyone would sign off on him taking a hit right now, which obviously he wouldn't need to do anyway."
— J.C. Tretter lined up as the starting center and Bryan Bulaga was the starting right tackle. Bulaga missed all of last season with a torn ACL sustained during the Family Night Scrimmage and the second half of 2012 with an injured hip. "All I know is they said he's ready to go, so that's a good thing," offensive line coach James Campen said. "The guy hasn't played in a while but certainly it's good to have him back out there."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.