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NFL teams get their turn at Te'o

By Brian Hamilton

Chicago Tribune

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 03:37 p.m. HST, Jan 22, 2013


On Wednesday morning, Manti Te'o was a more or less glistening, relatively welt-free NFL prospect with one significant but not really treacherous question to answer: Why had he played so terribly in the biggest game of his otherwise superior college career?

By the end of the day ... ?

In various forms, from various voices and in various contexts, Te'o's name wound up elbow to elbow with Cam Newton, Randy Moss and Lawrence Phillips.

The Heisman Trophy runner-up was still a presumed first-round NFL Draft pick in April, but that was the collateral damage of a hoax involving a fake dead girlfriend and Te'o's part in it, and the character questions that followed whether the player was an unwitting victim or not.

"He's going to have to explain this about 32 (darn) times now, in an interview room or whatever," said one NFL scout who requested anonymity because his team prohibits media interaction. "He's going to have to explain the whole thing and (his) agent is going to have to prep him on it.

"He's going to have to have some kind of story that is the same with everybody, or there are going to be even more questions. Is this stable? Did he get screwed? You have to give the kid the benefit of the doubt, but you have to research this thing and find every single angle you can."

Late Friday night, Te'o came clean at last to ESPN and began the rehabilitation process for injuries no one has seen before. He was the subject of a scam involving the death of a fictitious girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, that provided the backdrop to a season that put him in the top half of the first round of 2013 mock drafts almost everywhere.

To virtually no one's knowledge, it swelled in late December and early January and then Te'o had the disastrous performance against Alabama in the BCS championship game. Now every NFL team will work to reassemble the pieces and see if the picture of Te'o looks the same.

"As long as I've been in the National Football League, I've never seen a situation like this," said Gil Brandt, a former longtime Cowboys personnel executive and current NFL.com analyst.

"If you were at the Oklahoma game, you see how well he played against a good team on the road. For the year, the guy had seven interceptions. When you watch the Alabama game, it was like a guy who wasn't there."

So NFL teams may go to extraordinary lengths to see what they have, and Te'o will feel the brunt of it. Teams will investigate players with their personnel departments, and teams also will hire private investigators to dig deeper on perhaps a half-dozen more troublesome or complicated prospects.

A second NFL scout said the league will dispatch its own investigators on certain prospects. And then when Te'o sits in a room with a team, he will face pointed queries about a barely explicable situation from men who likely won't be able to wrap their skulls around it.

Brandt even suggested this: Teams may want to enlist psychologists to help sift through the question-and-answer sessions on a subject "above people who are not trained in that field."

"It's obviously a red flag," the second NFL scout said. "There will be an overreaction to this from a negative standpoint. Initially people want to shoot guys down who are rated up there high, and now they have a situation where they can say, 'Hey, we don't want anything to do with this guy.'

"There will be a lot of questions of why, and what was to be gained, and what did you learn from this. A lot of guys who are asking the questions haven't been in that kind of situation before and really don't understand it. They're going to take a hard line and try to be CIA-type guys."

"He will get absolutely punished more than Cam Newton, with everybody asking about it," the first scout said. "Now, you're going to see what kind of character the kid has because there are teams that talk. Guys will talk and they will say, 'What did he say to you guys?' Is it constant? Is it the same story? Does it change at all?' "

What hasn't changed: The 6-foot-2, 255-pound Te'o finished his college career with 437 tackles and a deep well of experience in publicly addressing and making a case to a larger group.

He landed at No. 8 in ESPN analyst Mel Kiper Jr.'s initial 2013 mock draft published Wednesday morning, and no one expects Te'o to slide out of the first round, though the second scout opined that he may have gone from the "five to 15" range to "10 to 20."

"If Te'o is able to reassure teams that he is, indeed, the victim in this case, his draft stock may not be affected at all," said Rob Rang, a senior analyst for NFLDraftScout.com/CBSSports.com.

In an ironic sense, the overwhelmingly bizarre Kekua case may help Te'o explain why he had 12 good performances and one particularly unsettling one.

"I think it would," Brandt said. "Whatever we do related to success on the football field is concentration. If you had something like this hanging over your head, it would be pretty hard to concentrate on what's going on on the field that day."

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mellishi wrote:
...really? Does it matter - let it go... it is amazing what these NFL scouts are demanding. Manti Te'o explained his unfortunate experience - move on, pau already. LOOK AT THE QUALITY OF THE NFL PROSPECT - Manti Te'o is a skilled player with many qualities, let him play ball!
on January 22,2013 | 03:18AM
Dawg wrote:
Amen.
on January 22,2013 | 04:03AM
joewilly wrote:
Mellishi, you would not have that kind of attitude if you had to pay the kid 700 thousand dollars a year? Get real! He brought this on himself. He got to deep into the game, probably enjoyed taking to the "fake girl ", then when everything blew up, did a poor job of coming clean. I know the NFL is not exactly a hot bed for "fine upstanding citizens", but if you want to get paid and play on Sundays this is the prerequisite.
on January 22,2013 | 06:34AM
GONEGOLFIN wrote:
700k a year. You need a little lesson in what this young man will make in a year as well as humanity lesson. You people are too much. How long do you think it would have took you to come out and tell the entire world how ignorant you were to the worlds crazies? You make me sick.
on January 22,2013 | 05:44PM
hanoz808 wrote:
because they want to make sure his head will be on straight while playing. opponents, and even maybe his own team, may try to get into his head, and that is a liablity for the team.
on January 22,2013 | 07:13AM
allie wrote:
Agree...let him play. He is a\an embarrassment to Hawaii and especially Punahou bujt as a player he might be fine. In the end, who cares anyway?
on January 22,2013 | 10:49AM
fishwrider wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on January 22,2013 | 02:39PM
Morimoto wrote:
We all know Allie is a troll but I think you're playing right into his hands. Feeding the troll will only encourage him to come back for more.
on January 22,2013 | 02:47PM
Nevadan wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on January 22,2013 | 03:21PM
turbolink wrote:
Is that you Allie? Or just Allie's alter ego?
on January 22,2013 | 04:25PM
toad103410 wrote:
He is expected to say he lied on the Couric show. If so ti doesn't say much about his character. Mike Golic, who is an avid Notre Dame supporter (he graduated from there and his 2 sons are there) said that Teo will be drafted into the NFL but will have face verbal abuse from fans from opposing teams when he plays.
on January 23,2013 | 01:37PM
maya wrote:
"It is amazing what these NFL scouts are demanding.' It aint college no more. The NFL is a business, and if they are going to hand over big cash to a player, they want to know what they are getting into. As regards to the skill part- he performed badly in his last game. That is now a big question mark on his ability to play in the NFL. He only plays ball in the NFL if they want him, no more, no less.
on January 22,2013 | 04:05AM
kaleki wrote:
I guess when you invest millions in someone, you want to do all you can to get a good return on your investment.
on January 22,2013 | 06:33AM
Allenk wrote:
Actually Manti Teo is considered a huge investment by NFL teams. Of course they know he can play, but they don't want to have do too much damage control should something happen. He should be responsible, show up on time and deal openly with the team he signs with.
on January 22,2013 | 06:34AM
posterized09 wrote:
IT IS HILAAAAAAAAAAAARIOUS how the NFL talks about character when the NFL is filled with steroid using, drug infested, murdering, battering, gun toting, types of characters.
on January 22,2013 | 06:23AM
Mallory wrote:
True but those are tangible things - now, we are talking about imaginary things - what if Manti had to go after an imaginary running back while the real running back is running the other way.... that would really confuse his teammates and make it harder to call plays from a defensive standpoint when playing against both a real and imaginary opponent
on January 22,2013 | 09:54AM
PCWarrior wrote:
He just has to check with Lennay Kekua before he signs with anyone.
on January 22,2013 | 12:02PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
If you can play ball well.... nothing else matters right. That is unless you run dog fights.
on January 22,2013 | 09:40PM
bumba wrote:
I don't think the scouts are demanding anything. The author is just trying to put a spin on this story so he can get some readers. The scouts are going to scoop up Manti as quickly as they can because they're going to be so afraid that someone else is going to sign him first.
on January 22,2013 | 06:24AM
allie wrote:
true..Manti is a deadly bore and and embarrassment. But he could be worse.
on January 22,2013 | 10:50AM
hsk wrote:
I'm interested to see how swinging from the other side plays out in an NFL locker room.
on January 22,2013 | 06:58AM
Wazdat wrote:
This too will pass and Manti will do GREAT in the NFL. come clean and get this B$ behind you Manti.
on January 22,2013 | 06:58AM
ready2go wrote:
The better NFL scouts are never quoted in the news.
on January 22,2013 | 07:07AM
inverse wrote:
That is why the quote was from an "anonymous" NFL scout who refused to be named.
on January 22,2013 | 10:07AM
hanoz808 wrote:
there were no real answers on friday....the interview was a hoax
on January 22,2013 | 07:13AM
maafifloos wrote:
The question is.... how much$$$
on January 22,2013 | 07:28AM
joewilly wrote:
With the new labor agreement, Manti will make the rookie minimum of 400 thousand in his first year. All rookies get 4 year contracts. So his signing bonus will be 400 divided by 4, which is 100 thousand and he will get that immediately. When he reports to training camp he gets the rookie "per diem" of 850 dollars a week, all during training camp, preseason games, up until one week before start of regular season. Room, board, meals and travel is provided. The 850 a week is walking around money. Once the season starts he gets 400 divided by 17 weeks (regular season games). That comes out to around $23,000 a week. That's not taking into consideration bonuses, incentives and endorsements.
on January 22,2013 | 08:36AM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Yea..I'm sure Match.com will want to sign him to an endorsement deal.
on January 22,2013 | 09:43PM
CriticalReader wrote:
NFL teams have to be realistic about this situation, and understand that much of this is "he said/she said", "he said/ it said", "he said/he said", "he said/no one said". Really the only way to figure out what really happened is to have been there, or to have a clear avenue to see. So, the NFL has to either get gpod, reliable psychics to channel what really happened, or get access to the various time machine's positioned throughout the nation. The problem with psychics is that they can be bought. So, they may tell one team one thing and another team something different. Plus, they can tell ahead of time which team will figure out such a scam because that's what they do. Time Machines will also be problematic because due to the very quick nature of things like tweets, the target historical date when an investigator would want to show up is a very, very short window. It will take a lot of hit and miss just to be there when a tweet was being created, and then, apparently, there were a lot of them. Plus, the investigator would have to arrive just at the moment the tweet was already written, but about to be sent, and have to end up right next to the tweeter so they could grab the phone or computer key board so that the tweeter couldn't erase the tweet. But, also, if the tweeter erased the tweet, that would change history, and then all of this hoax stuff would be wiped off the books, and then there would be major upheaval because then Notre Dame would probably win the national championship. Whew! This story may never end.
on January 22,2013 | 08:23AM
lowtone123 wrote:
Manti will be judged not by the fallout from the hoax but that fact in the biggest game he played his worst.
on January 22,2013 | 08:35AM
ponowai wrote:
What the teams are concerned about most is why Manti didn't play well against Alabama. Everyone has problems, the teams want players who will play at their best regardless. I believe in Mantii, can't wait to see him play again, I can imagine how bad he wants to hit someone.
on January 22,2013 | 08:59AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
This hoax was on his mind which is why he did not play well versus Alabama. We could even speculate that the hoax very well cost Notre Dame the National Championship. Even if he did not play well, Manti still has first round talent that will show itself in NFL games. Each level that Manti goes up, the competition will be more intense, so it will not be any easier playing against the Best of the Best.
on January 22,2013 | 11:50AM
loquaciousone wrote:
How do you spell MILLIONS -- K E K U A.
on January 22,2013 | 10:46AM
HonoluluHawaii wrote:
I spell it L O Q U A C I O U S O N E.
on January 22,2013 | 11:46AM
scooters wrote:
1: He didn't show any of his skills in the Orange Bowl.. 2: College Educated and he found his love on a web site? Sight un-seen...never even met her in person..but he was in LOVE..give me a break..
on January 22,2013 | 01:39PM
BTO wrote:
Teo is a decent human, good roots and upbringing. Former boy scout and leader. Compared to most of the NFL players who make a living exploiting female companionship this is Hollywood -- sells newspapers and web hits.
on January 22,2013 | 04:20PM
mynah wrote:
I think Teo was naive and gullible when it came to relationships with girls. His devotion to his religion, family and football left him little time to develop any relationship with girls. In college, he probably felt peer pressured to have a girl, since that is how young men measure their manhood by the number of girls they have had. To be without a girlfriend in a locker room full of jocks is tantamount to declaring yourself, well, different. So an online relationship with a female allowed him some relief from the peer pressure, at least in his own mind. But because of the weird naturen of a cyber relationship, he probably did embelish the extent of the relationship with his peers by saying that he did meet her and actually had physical contact with her, even though he never did. But that doesnt make him complicit to the underlying hoax from the so-called friend that seem so, well, different.
on January 22,2013 | 10:46PM
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