EUGENE — The circumstances have not changed.
Oregon coach Mark Helfrich will continue to do his best to keep injuries, illnesses and other issues regarding his players and their playing status under wraps.
After the Ducks' 59-14 thrashing of Tennessee on Saturday at Autzen Stadium, Helfrich said tight end Colt Lyerla didn't suit up because of "circumstances."
The vague description, which Helfrich also used when asked why wide receiver Eric Dungy did not play in the opener against Nicholls, led to speculation on social media about Lyerla's standing in the program.
"It doesn't have anything to do with one player. I've used that exact same word multiple times to describe other players," Helfrich said during a Sunday conference call with reporters. "I don't think there's any negative connotation to the word 'circumstances.'
"Going forward, if 'circumstance' is considered negative, then I'll think of another way to say nothing."
Lyerla wanted to make it clear the reason he missed the game was because he was ill and unable to participate in practices last week. He also expressed disappointment with how Helfrich handled the situation publicly.
"I have no idea why he said that," Lyerla told The Oregonian. "It made me really upset. It's not my fault I got sick. I just felt he could have had my back a little bit more instead of throwing me under the bus."
Helfrich believes his ambiguous answers help to protect his players' privacy and prevent them from becoming sitting Ducks for opponents looking to target specific injuries.
"It's a competitive issue," Helfrich said. "It's also a mindset. I'm talking in general, I'm not talking about one guy. When you're talking about limitations or excuses, that takes over."
Through the first two games, Lyerla had only two receptions for 26 yards with several drops against Virginia. He did make the highlight reel against Nicholls with three rushes for 17 yards and a touchdown.
True freshman Johnny Mundt made his first start against the Volunteers and instantly became Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota's favorite new target with five catches for 121 yards and two touchdowns.
"I was just glad to see his hard work come to fruition," offensive coordinator Scott Frost said of Mundt. "He took probably more reps during fall camp than anybody on our team because we had a couple injuries at tight end. And he never backed down from any of that."
When asked about Lyerla's absence, Frost said: "I didn't know anything about it, that's a Mark decision."
If Helfrich were in the NFL — where even Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly must adhere to the league-wide policy requiring teams to disclose injuries and to describe players as "probable" or "questionable" or "doubtful" for upcoming games — he might be more forthcoming at press conferences.
"It would be a lot easier for me to talk about it, but that's not the right way," Helfrich said.
PAC-12 MAKES A STATEMENT: Oregon's 45-point victory over an SEC opponent wasn't even the most impressive result for the Pac-12 on Saturday.
The conference went 3-1 head-to-head against the Big Ten with UCLA winning at No. 23 Nebraska, Arizona State holding on for a home win against No. 20 Wisconsin and Washington beating Illinois at Soldier Field in Chicago. No. 3 Ohio State carried the banner for the Big Ten with a convincing win at Cal.
"We have an outstanding conference. We have a bunch of great coaches and a bunch of talented teams," Helfrich said.
The Pac-12 has five teams ranked in the Associated Press poll this week with No. 5 Stanford, No. 13 UCLA, No. 17 Washington and No. 23 Arizona State joining the Ducks, who remain No. 2 in both the AP and USA Today Coaches polls.
The SEC has seven ranked teams, including four in the top 10, led by No. 1 Alabama.
DEVIL IS IN THE DETAILS: Helfrich, a former assistant at Arizona State, said he watched the controversial finish to that game when Wisconsin was in position to kick the winning field goal but allowed the clock to run out.
Quarterback Joel Stave took a snap, started to kneel, bumped into an offensive lineman and then placed the ball on the ground.
By the time officials set the ball, which some Sun Devils players had pounced on thinking it might be a live fumble, Stave was unable to receive the next snap in time to spike the ball and stop the clock.
Arizona State escaped with a controversial 32-30 win that's going to bother Badger fans for years to come.
The Ducks will be going over the same situation during bye-week practices.
"Take a knee and then hand the ball to the umpire," Helfrich said when asked what Mariota would be coached to do in the same situation.
"It's always real comfortable to make that observation from my couch."
RESTING UP FOR BEARS: Oregon's players were given Sunday and today off. The team will practice today, Wednesday and Thursday before getting some more rest over the weekend.
The Ducks open Pac-12 play on Sept. 28 against Cal at Autzen Stadium. The kickoff time for the game, which will air on the Pac-12 Network, is 7:30 p.m.