NFC North: Koren Robinson
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Ted Thompson, as conservative as he may be in many aspects during his tenure as general manager of the Green Bay Packers, believes in second chances.
He showed that when he signed troubled receiver Koren Robinson in 2006 after Robinson ran into personal and legal trouble and was cut by the Minnesota Vikings. Thompson showed it again last season when he brought back defensive tackle Johnny Jolly after Jolly had been away from the Packers for three years while serving prison time and an NFL suspension for drug possession and use.
So his decision to give another chance to talented tight end Colt Lyerla -- the former Oregon tight end who went undrafted and unsigned during the initial wave of rookie free agency but signed with the Packers on Monday after a weekend tryout -- should not come as a surprise.
"We have always believed that, or I have always believed that, there are certain things that people can atone for, acknowledge their mistakes and get on with their lives," Thompson said last weekend during the Packers' rookie orientation camp. "And I am a proponent of those kind of people that try to do that. And that's where we're at with Colt."
Thompson and his staff no doubt spent hours looking into Lyerla's issues -- from his controversial tweets in which he suggested that the Sandy Hook school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, was a government conspiracy to his premature departure from the Oregon football team to his arrest for possession of cocaine -- and believed, like Robinson and Jolly before him, that Lyerla would be able to function in the Packers' system.
And he surely received assurance from Lyerla's camp that he has learned from his mistakes
"He is a first-round talent, and he will be a great young man in Green Bay," Lyerla's agent, Vinnie Porter, told the Green Bay Press-Gazette. "He has turned the corner and will make this situation a great one."
It doesn't hurt that Lyerla plays a position that ranked as one of the team's greatest needs going into the offseason. With Jermichael Finley's medical and contractual status still up in the air and no one with a lock on the starting job despite the fact that the Packers re-signed Andrew Quarless and drafted Cal's Richard Rodgers in the third round, it's easy to see why Thompson decided to sign Lyerla.
From a financial standpoint, there's zero risk involved. Tryout players who receive contract offers almost never get a signing bonus and, like the other undrafted rookies, they earn their minimum base salary only if they are on the 53-man roster. So consider this an extended tryout for Lyeria, a talented player who, at least in Thompson's eyes, deserved a chance.
As you recall, I suggested it would be a hollow gesture unless the Lions made clear they would release all players who were arrested moving forward. And we all know there are some Lions players, as with any team, who are untouchable.
"The Lions would absolutely NOT have to handle a Matthew Stafford arrest the same way. The NFL is not a democracy. Life is not fair. Some players are treated differently. If [former Minnesota Vikings cornerback] Cedric Griffin would have demanded a pay raise and wanted to skip OTA's/minicamp in 2009, would he have been able to? Absolutely not. But Brett Favre could. If (insert lesser Pittsburgh Steelers player) had gotten in the same trouble as Ben Roethlisberger, would they still be on the team? Maybe not.
"Players absolutely do not have to be treated the same way.
"But here's what you missed: Releasing Berry is NOT just about 'scaring' other players. It's about sending a message that 'We won't tolerate this'. It doesn't mean, 'We will release anyone that does this,' only that they will take SOME action. If Matt Stafford gets a DUI, he knows he won't be released. But releasing Berry may make him think twice because the Lions could do SOMETHING to him. And regardless, he'd have to worry about discipline from the NFL."
To me, this response boils down to this: something must be done, because doing nothing hasn't worked. And to be honest, I have argued in the past that NFL teams are justified in treating some players differently than others. Favre is a prime example. His rules should have been different than, say, Cedric Griffin's. That's how the world turns.
Further, I've seen this before. In his first summer as the Minnesota Vikings' head coach, Brad Childress followed through on promises to be tough on the team's notorious off-field behavior. He quickly released receiver Koren Robinson, his presumptive No. 1 receiver, after a drunken driving arrest -- long before the judicial system or NFL made any kind of ruling. Whether it was by chance or a legitimate consequence, what followed was a long stretch of relatively good off-field behavior.
Would releasing Berry shake up the Lions' roster sufficiently to cool its proverbial jets? My gut tells me it looks better on paper than in practice, but our responder has made one unquestionably accurate assertion: What the Lions have done so far hasn't worked. The debate is not whether it's time to go to Plan B, but what Plan B should entail.
Posted by ESPN.com's Brett Longdin
Considering Ted Thompson's propensity for draft-day trades -- he's made at least one move backwards to collect more picks in each of his four previous drafts with the team -- it's hard to know if Green Bay will remain at No. 9.
But if Thompson does keep that first-round pick, there is a history of success coming out of the No. 9 slot. Some of the noteworthy No. 9 selections have been: Gerald Riggs (1982, Atlanta), Terry McDaniel (1988, L.A. Raiders), Lincoln Kennedy (1993, Atlanta), Bruce Matthews (1983, Houston) and Richmond Webb (1990, Miami).
Looking back at the No. 9 pick since 1999, there have been hits and misses: LB Keith Rivers (2008), WR Ted Ginn Jr. (2007), LB Ernie Sims (2006), DB Carlos Rogers (2005), WR Reggie Williams (2004), DT Kevin Williams (2003), DT John Henderson (2002), WR Koren Robinson (2001), LB Brian Urlacher (2000) and LB Chris Claiborne (1999).
Brett Longdin is an ESPN.com blog editor based in Wisconsin.
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando and Kevin Seifert
The draft won't fix these wayward teams overnight -- unless, of course, they follow the advice of NFC West blogger Mike Sando and NFC North blogger Kevin Seifert.
Kevin Seifert: Well, Mike, first off I'd like to thank the Seahawks and Lions for making our jobs a bit easier for the next six weeks. Before last weekend's trade that sent defensive tackle Cory Redding to Seattle for linebacker Julian Peterson, we were weighing the candidacies of too many players for the No. 1 overall pick in the April 25-26 draft.
|AP Photo/Darron Cummings|
|Baylor tackle Jason Smith would help solidify the Lions' offensive line.|
Would the Lions take Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford? Would they capitalize on the strong tackle class and swoop up Baylor's Jason Smith? Or would they make a compromise selection and take the player considered the safest pick in the draft, Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry?
Seems to me this trade has eliminated Curry from the Lions' mix. Don't you agree? I mean, would you draft Curry after giving up a promising defensive tackle (and also a fifth-round pick) for someone who plays the same position? I don't think I would. They say Curry could project as a middle linebacker in the NFL, but it would be awfully hard to justify drafting a middle linebacker with the No. 1 overall pick.
So that pretty much settles it, right? Wouldn't you agree that Curry is much more likely to wind up with one of your NFC West teams, whether it's St. Louis at No. 2 or Seattle at No. 4? If it were up to me, the Lions would take the best left tackle in the draft, and that would be Smith.
Mike Sando: I tend to see Curry landing with Kansas City in that third slot. The Rams could use him, sure, but they pretty much have to emerge from this draft with a starting offensive tackle. Can they find one after the first round? Probably, but 'probably' might not be good enough for a team that has invested so much in Marc Bulger and Steven Jackson. Upgrading the offensive line was the No. 1 priority this offseason. Signing Jason Brown solved the problem at center, but Alex Barron is the starting left tackle now that Orlando Pace is out. They're talking about having Jacob Bell move from left guard to right tackle. That doesn't sound promising.
As much as Steve Spagnuolo wants to build that defense, I'm not sure the Rams can resist taking a tackle. Once Curry makes it past the Rams, the Chiefs would seemingly be a good fit -- which would put Seattle in an interesting position. They've got Matt Hasselbeck, but should they consider Stafford under our scenario?
Early Wednesday, I started making a list of all the bizarre, you-only-see-this-once bits of drama I covered during nine seasons on the Minnesota Vikings beat.
|Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images|
|Former Vikings WR Randy Moss caught some heat for "mooning" the Lambeau Field crowd.|
There was Randy Moss nudging a traffic cop with his car, which was later found to have marijuana in the ash tray.
Onterrio Smith and the Whizzinator.
Dennis Green agreeing to a contract buyout, running practice, and then announcing his departure during his daily media briefing in 2001.
Koren Robinson driving 110 miles per hour down a state highway to make training camp curfew.
Moss "mooning" Lambeau Field during a 2005 playoff game.
Moss declaring a few days later that he would pay the resulting fine with "straight cash," and suggesting that next time he would shake a different body part in front of the crowd.
The Vikings missing their turn in the first round of the 2003 draft.
Personnel director Fran Foley getting fired in 2006 after three months on the job; he had exaggerated his resume and threatened staffers with a "bloodbath" after the draft.
The more time I spent with the list, the more I realized how historically insignificant the suspensions of Pat Williams and Kevin Williams actually were in Vikings off-field lore. It seemed to be standard stuff relative to this franchise.
Until, of course, a Minnesota judge took the unprecedented action Wednesday night of temporarily lifting their suspensions pending further hearings on the topic.
The NFL plans an immediate appeal, and it's conceivable both players will be "re-suspended" as early as Thursday. But as we sit here Wednesday night, about 85 hours before the Vikings' game Sunday at Detroit, no one has any idea what will happen next. Will the NFL's steroid policy be voided? Will the move ultimately force the players to miss a playoff game? Who knows?
This is the type of chaotic sideshow we've never seen in these parts.
Oh, wait. There was the time Mike Tice found out that his contract was set to expire during the 2004 season because of a clerical error. The mistake forced then-owner Red McCombs to pick up his option for 2005 amid rumors he wanted to fire Tice and hire a new coach.
It's rare that a team in the playoff chase must deal with such off-field distractions. Except for the time in 2004 when Moss walked off Washington's FedEx Field prior to the end of a one-score game. Center Matt Birk went after him in the locker room afterwards. Later that day, the Vikings earned a wild-card bid.
You couldn't come up with a story like this if you tried. Two All-Pro players going to court to take down the NFL's steroid abuse policy? Come on. It's almost like a bunch of players deciding to, I don't know, rent some boats on Lake Minnetonka, fly in some out-of-state strippers and have a party.
Oh wait, that's what happened on the Love Boat in 2005.
Birk, a St. Paul native, complained a few days later that the out-of-state invite list was an "insult to Minnesota strippers." For that smart-aleck remark, Birk went nose-to-nose with quarterback Daunte Culpepper and linebacker Keith Newman in what turned out to be heated locker room confrontation.
Ah, we don't mean to make light of the situation. The reputation of two players, not to mention about $1.5 million in salary, is at stake here. Nothing evil happened, right? Just two players trying to make weight. It's not like they were caught in a compromising situation with a naked woman in a downtown stairwell or something.
That was safety Dwight Smith. August, 2006. Remember?