SAN DIEGO – With starting middle linebacker Donald Butler out last week due to a groin injury, San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano had to find another player to wear the helmet with the green dot, signaling the defensive player wearing the headset on the field.
And that duty fell to rookie linebacker Manti Te’o.
“It was new,” Te’o said. “But during practice I got used to it, and it worked out just fine.”
Added Pagano: “He did great. He probably didn’t like me screaming in his ear all the time.”
Te’o played 31 of the 48 defensive snaps for the Chargers against Indianapolis last week, finishing with a combined five tackles. In just his third game since returning from a sprained foot he suffered in August, Te’o said he was finally playing a little more relaxed and loose.
“It was a little better,” Te’o said. “Every game is a learning process. And every day you have a chance to learn and get better. I think I’m getting more comfortable, and I was able to fly around a lot more. But I have a long way to go.”
With Te’o missing so much practice time because of the foot injury, Pagano said wearing the headset and calling the defense during the game forces Te’o to speed up his learning of the entire defense.
“It makes you focus,” Pagano said. “It gives him the ability to lead out on the field. You’ve got 10 other guys looking at you, and they want the call. They’re waiting for what’s going to come out of your mouth – what’s going to be said. Between timeouts, between series, I’m constantly telling him things. ... That’s where you learn the whole defense. You’re telling a defensive lineman something, and then a secondary player.
“I’m not saying he’s going to know everything right now. He’s a rookie. It’s going to take time. But I think he did a great job.”
With Butler’s having missed two practices this week and his availability uncertain for Sunday’s game against Jacksonville, Pagano said Te’o will wear the helmet with the green dot again this week.