ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Manti Te’o says his rough rookie season has nothing to do with the flak he’s faced over getting fooled by a hoax involving a fake girlfriend while at Notre Dame.
The San Diego Chargers rookie linebacker said in his first conference call of the season Tuesday that he has yet to play a complete game in the NFL but that’s because of his adjustment to the pros and not because he’s distracted in any way by the catcalls from opposing teams or their fans.
Te’o said he does a good job blocking out the chatter from the stands.
“I’ve definitely heard things, but my job is to go out there and to play ball and do my best and hopefully come out with a win. So, all the other outside stuff, if I’m paying attention to that, then I’m in trouble,” Te’o said. “But that’s what fans do. They love their team. They’re passionate about their team, so it’s nothing that I didn’t expect.”
Te’o said he hasn’t really caught much grief from opposing players.
“I haven’t really run into any of that. I think as players we understand that we’re all in the same situation. We’re all here to play ball and we’re here as football players, we’re trying to provide a life for our families and that’s about it,” Te’o said.
“When we step on the football field, it’s all about football and competing. So, I haven’t really run into any of that stuff.”
Yet, when asked a follow-up question about opponents trying to get under his skin, he did acknowledge that they sometimes bring up the issue.
“But to be honest, I’m so locked into the game that basically I don’t really catch it,” he said. “And at this point, it doesn’t really bother me. So, it’s no big deal, really.”
Te’o was an All-American linebacker whose draft stock fell after his poor showing in the BCS Championship against Alabama and once the hoax was revealed as front office personnel wondered if he’d be mentally tough enough to handle the grief he’d face over the girlfriend hoax.
The Chargers selected him in the second round of the draft, but his development was slowed by a sprained right foot in training camp and he was inactive for the Chargers’ first three games.
Since then, he’s been steady, collecting 69 tackles and breaking up four passes while playing inside linebacker next to Donald Butler.
Chargers coach Mike McCoy said Te’o is facing the usual growing pains a rookie experiences but “each week he’s gotten a little bit better.”
Te’o, however, has yet to record an interception or a sack or really have a big impact on a game for the Chargers (6-7), who visit the Broncos (11-2) Thursday night.
“I still haven’t had a complete game yet,” Te’o said. “I’ve felt the most growth I would have to say the Kansas City game (on Nov. 24). There was a different feel to that game, I was comfortable to a level where I could just move. … I’m looking forward to a time when I can have that complete game and I’m constantly working to do that.”
Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press