The Notre Dame product made it through a week of practice as a full participant after missing the first three games due to a foot injury, and is listed as probable on the team’s injury report.
However, San Diego coach Mike McCoy stopped short of saying the rookie definitely will play on Sunday.
“He’s had a great week of practice,” McCoy said. “And it’s been great for him to kind of get back out there, and get into the flow of things. So it’s looking good today.”
For his part, Te’o says he’s ready.
“I get to play with my guys, so I’m excited,” Te’o said.
If he plays, one of the questions Te’o will face is how he performs once the opening whistle blows. Conditioning could be an issue. The Chargers attempted to replicate game speed in practice, but things always move a tick quicker once a player is on the field.
“I could go out here and play hoops against these other coaches, but if they’re going to throw me in some live action down there at San Diego State, I think it’s going to be a shock to me, first of all, because I ain’t that good,” joked defensive coordinator John Pagano. “Game speed is always going to be faster than anything else. So that’s something he’s going to adapt to very quickly.”
Fellow linebacker Donald Butler said he’s anxious to see what Te’o can do.
“It means a lot, obviously,” said Butler, who’s also probable for Sunday after practicing fully all week. Butler’s dealing with a groin issue. “They brought him in here to be an impact, and play with me. And we had a good week of practice. So I’m excited to see him go out there to see what he can do.”
While Te’o returns, the Chargers likely will be without three starting offensive linemen when they take the field against a talented Cowboys’ defensive front.
Dunlap is listed as questionable on the team’s injury report, along with cornerback Shareece Wright (hamstring). Rinehart and Clary are listed as doubtful. Center Nick Hardwick (shin) is probable. Receiver Malcolm Floyd (neck) has been ruled out.
With those three out, the Chargers are looking at a projected starting five of Mike Harris at left tackle, Johnnie Troutman at left guard, Hardwick at center, Rich Ohrnberger at right guard and rookie D.J. Fluker at right tackle.
Recent addition Stephen Schilling also could be in the mix at guard. And McCoy also could move a big body like tackles Nick Becton, Kenny Wiggins or Andrew Tiller up from the practice squad.
No matter what five guys line up on Sunday, offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt said he’ll have his group ready to go.
“Let me say this: they have a good front and are playing well together,” Whisenhunt said, when asked about the Cowboys defensively. “It’s never easy. We have different guys that we’re not exactly sure where it’s going to shake out for Sunday. There’s not much we can do about it. We’re still going to play. We’re still going to kick off at 1pm. We just have to prepare our guys the best we can and know in that situation we’re going to battle. Our guys have done that. They have battled, so that’s what we’re expecting to do on Sunday.”