EUGENE-Tuesday appears to have brought some closure to Flu-Gate 2013, as star tight end Colt Lyerla participated in the first of three bye week practices.
Lyerla missed Saturday's 59-14 win over Tennessee for what was disclosed after the game as "circumstances" by head coach Mark Helfrich. The vague response left much of the media and fans hypothesizing that Lyerla's absence was due to something other than the stomach flu which was what had been reported during the ABC telecast.
Sunday, Lyerla was contacted on his personal phone by Oregonian reporter Jason Quick and left the following comment regarding Helfrich's statement:
"I'm really upset with the way Coach Helfrich said that after the game. Really disappointed. I feel hurt about this. I watched a little bit of what he said, then started reading all of it, and ... it was unfair.''
Lyerla took Tuesday's media availability to clear the air, saying he felt his comment had been misinterpreted and that his only intention was to verify that he was sick and nothing more.
"I was upset with the fact that people took the word 'circumstances' and kind of blew it up into something negative that it really wasn't," he said. "The main part of what I wanted to say was that I was actually sick, there was no grey area or something else.
"I wasn't frustrated with my coach and the last thing I wanted was to be a distraction from our success that we're having right now."
Lyerla says he and Helfrich spoke over the weekend and "everything is fine".
"I just want everyone to know that I'm here 100 percent committed and I'm going to be here the whole season and do whatever I can to help the team win," Lyerla said.
Lyerla also confirmed what many had wondered, which was that it was Quick who had broken protocol in contacting the student athlete.
Then don't comment.
"It was just an inappropriate forum for the entire situation," the coach said. "In hindsight, he obviously regrets a lot of what went on and what was said and how it was said. That's part of the reason why we don't talk directly to the media members and media members don't directly contact our guys.
"After that, it's a non-issue."
Much of the confusion was due to Helfrich's verbiage, using "circumstances" rather than his predecessor's "day-to-day" or "we don't talk about injuries". In the end, Helfrich sticks by how he handled the situation and confirmed that if a player had been suspended the media would be notified.
"From the standpoint of 'circumstances', I said that a thousand times this year. Certainly to Colt or the other guys in describing them, in no way shape or form was that every intended to be negative," he said.
The silver lining in all of this?
The play of true freshman Johnny Mundt, who in place of Lyerla caught five passes for 121 yards and a pair of scores. Lyerla tweeted hashtag "MundtForHeisman" during the game and the veteran stands by his praise.
"You can't ask for a freshman to do more than that. I think he's deserving of every accolade he's gotten so far," he said.
With much of the coaching staff away recruiting, Helfrich said he enlisted a number of veteran players to call plays for today's practice and according to Rob Moseley's tweets, the 11-on-11 was made up of mostly second and third string players.
Both Moseley and quarterback Marcus Mariota highlighted a touchdown grab by redshirting wideout Darren Carrington.
"He's one of those guys that could be a special player. He showed why with that catch today," Mariota said.
Moseley also noted the play of Tyree Robinson and B.J. Kelley in the 11-on-11 drills.