Manti Te’o on the Combine

Let the “Combine” Begin


teoThe NFL Scouting Combine begins Wednesday in Indianapolis.  Draft hopefuls will be putting their physical abilities on display, as well as taking two mental acuity exams.

Manti Te’o will be closely scrutinized for an additional reason.  The Heisman runner-up from Notre Dame will be challenged to display his physical abilities that appeared to diminish as the season ended.  Part of it may be the result of the over-reported case of the “non-existent”, dead, girlfriend.  And that will be the second part of his overall evaluation.

The Pro game is more than physical dominance.  On the defensive side, linebackers are expected to make instantaneous decisions.  In order to accomplish that, 100% of the player’s focus has to be on the game.

Te’o doesn’t believe his now infamous scandal involving a fake online girlfriend will affect his stock in the April 25-27 draft.  But there will be questions, many of which were never answered.  Conflicting statements were made, and he will be facing 32 team executives during 15-minute interview sessions beginning Wednesday night.

“I have to just go out there and perform and all that other stuff is behind me,” he told USA TODAY Sports between workouts at IMG Academy Monday. “What I did on the field is what I did on the field. I don’t think what I did with this whole situation, I don’t understand how it takes away from what I did on the field.”

“As far as my stock dropping or rising, that’s not up to me. The only thing I have to do is just do well, run fast, just be myself, be quick.”

His statements do not convince me that he has moved on from the incident.  He will be forced to answer questions about his involvement, and why he continued to talk about his deceased ‘girlfriend’ after he was aware it was a hoax.

Personally, I wish him well.  When he concentrated on playing football, he was an exciting  young linebacker who could change the momentum of a game by a single play.  But he can’t deny that this sordid story, this jigsaw puzzle, never put all the pieces together to give us the full picture.

The difference in being a first round pick vs. a second involves money and other incentives.  I will be watching in April to see what conclusions the scouts will have made about his future.

James Turnage

Columnist-The Guardian Express

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