San Diego Chargers rookie linebacker Manti Te’o finally spoke to the media after mini-camp on Tuesday. The Notre Dame product had his first press conference and took questions from assembled reporters after not speaking publicly since rookie mini-camp on May 10.
Te’o has largely been kept off-limits since being drafted by the Chargers in the second round (38th overall pick) of the 2013 NFL Draft. San Diego’s new head coach Mike McCoy has kept Te’o quiet, fearing the rookie would be inundated with questions not related to football.
On Tuesday most of the questions asked had to do with football, his fit with the Chargers and what has been the biggest adjustment going from college to the NFL.
Te’o had the following to say about putting his personal issues behind him:
“When we’re out on the football field, everything else doesn’t matter. Thankfully for me, I’m surrounded by a bunch of teammates who have really pushed me to be better. All they care about is that No. 50 is working his butt off. I’ll take care of the work ethic part and for them, they just make sure that I’m going in the right direction. Personally that hasn’t been difficult at all.”
“We have a saying in the defensive room: ‘Keep the main thing the main thing.’ I’m here to play football. I’m here to be the best Charger I can be and I’m not going to let anything get in the way of that. We’ll keep the main thing the main thing.”
Te’o went on to say that the speed of the game is the biggest difference between college and the NFL, and that he believes he can be a three-down linebacker. He also said the biggest thing he’s learned from the veterans is to come in and work hard every day without anyone having to push him. The rookie also sounded like he was in awe of eight-time Pro Bowler Antonio Gates, as the two have gone head-to-head a lot in practice.
Te’o was the only player the Chargers kept away from the media, and the 22-year-old claims McCoy told him from the outset that the organization had a plan to get him acclimated to life in the NFL. San Diego wanted him to focus on football and “get his head in the playbook” before they made him available publicly.
From all reports coming out of Chargers Park, Te’o has impressed his coaches and teammates with his work so far.