Tuesday, June 11, 2013
Manti Te'o doesn't need protecting
By Bill Williamson
SAN DIEGO -- I understand why the San Diego Chargers are trying to protect Manti Te’o from the media onslaught as the polarizing rookie begins his NFL career.
However, after watching the kid handle the spotlight on Tuesday, I don’t believe the organization has anything to worry about. The kid is a polished pro at dealing with the media.
It's safe to say that observers at the Chargers' Tuesday workout came away impressed with rookie linebacker Manti Te'o.
It’s stunning that any 22-year-old can handle himself publicly this well, let alone one who had to deal with the pressure Te’o has had.
We all know the back story by now. The middle linebacker from Notre Dame was involved in an Internet hoax involving a fake dead girlfriend. It was the first negative publicity Te’o has ever had to deal with. It likely had a part in his tumble from a top-five prospect to being the No. 38 overall NFL draft pick.
Part of the Chargers’ plan for Te’o was to shield him from overexposure with the media. In the past several team workouts, Te’o has been off-limits to the media. He was basically the only player in the NFL who was off-limits to the media this spring, and the team caught a lot of national heat for it.
The Te’o sequester ended Tuesday as the Chargers made him available in a news conference setting only. There were about 60-70 reporters there for the end of the media boycott, as it were.
Te'o handled it seamlessly -- just like he has with nearly every media session since the hoax story broke.
Te’o patiently answered every question he was asked in a session that lasted about 20 minutes. He gave well-thought-out answers. Nothing was off-limits. However, there was no new ground broken, nor did Te’o supply any headlines.
He did say that he was appreciative that the team made its media plan because it allowed him to focus on football. It is clear he is completely focused on the playbook, and by all accounts Te’o is doing everything the team wants him to do on the field. He is pegged as a three-down player in San Diego’s 3-4 system.
Here are some of the more interesting tidbits from the Te’o session:
He said he did allow himself to watch the tape of Notre Dame’s blowout loss to Alabama in the national title game once. Te’o had perhaps his worst college performance in that game.
Asked why he went to a recent Maxim Magazine function that poked fun at his hoax Te’o said like, most 22-year-olds, he wanted to “check out” the party. Good answer.
He said several NFL luminaries have offered their support including Troy Polamalu, Ray Lewis and Steve Young.
We will further delve into Te’o’s transition to the NFL on Wednesday. But rest assured, San Diego, there is little to worry about at this point -- on and off the field. The kid is impressive.