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From the combine: NFL teams more concerned with football than ‘catfishing’ when it comes to Manti Te’o

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Manti Te'o speaks at the combine. (USA Today Sports Images)

INDIANAPOLIS -- Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o drew a very large media crowd for his session at the podium during the 2013 scouting combine in Indianapolis and it did not take long for the first question about "the incident".

Te'o knew the questions were coming and said that some of the NFL teams are getting that issue out of the way at the start of their 15-minute interviews.

"Quite a few teams asked me about it," Te'o said. "Some go to certain lengths, some just ask me, ‘Just give me a brief overview of how it was’ then they get straight to business.

[Related: Manti Te'o coached, but poised in combine press conference]

"Some guys just talk briefly for 30 seconds and the next 14 minutes is all plays and getting down to business. That’s how I prefer it to be."

Several NFL coaches and general managers have been asked this week about the "catfishing" hoax and how it could affect Te'o's draft status. The consensus has been that while they're interested in seeing how Te'o handles the media scrutiny, they know how well he plays on the field and that, above anything, will determine where he gets picked.

"If he can handle that distraction and still be able to perform on the football field, I really don't think it makes that much of a difference," Carolina Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said on Thursday. "Whatever happened is a set of circumstances that only he really knows what it was all about. We'll talk about it. We'll find out about it. The bottom line is, is he a good person and can he play football? That's probably the most important thing that he'll have to answer.

"I don't think it's going to hurt his draft stock. He's coming here to improve his draft stock. I do think he's a heck of a football player and I think he's got a bright future in this league."

The Panthers used a first-round pick on middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, so they certainly will not be drafting Te'o in the first round this year. One team that might have an interest in Te'o are the Denver Broncos.

The Broncos used a 2011 third-round pick on North Carolina State linebacker Nate Irving with the idea that he would eventually take over as the starter in the middle. While executive vice president of football operations John Elway said the team remains excited about Irving, in two seasons, he has logged just 41 defensive snaps the last two seasons, according to official playing-time documents. The Broncos could look to increase the competition at the middle linebacker position and executive vice president of football operations John Elway said on Friday that he is looking forward to talking to Te'o.

"I just want to talk to him," said Elway. "Personally, I don’t get caught up in everything that is swirling around him. I’m looking forward to sitting down and talking to him. I know him as a football player. He’s a very good football player. He’s going to have a successful career in the NFL. I’m looking forward to sitting down and talking to him."

[Also: Alex Smith on the trading block in Indy]

The Minnesota Vikings are another team that could have interest in Te'o. General manager Rick Spielman said he was interested in seeing how Te'o handled the media and added that the team has increased their monitoring of social media outlets primarily due to the Te'o incident.

"One thing we’ve done this year, too, is we’ve done a lot of digging on social media and have a pretty in-depth picture of these players that are involved or not involved in social media, how many times they tweet or twit – I don’t know the technical; I’m not a technical guy. But it’s interesting to see the patterns on some of these social media players as well," Spielman said.

"I’d say a lot more in-depth this year. And probably just because of all of the highlight of what happened with the Notre Dame linebacker."

Te'o understands why NFL teams are asking him about the incident.

"They want to be able to trust their player," Te'o said. "You don’t want to invest in somebody you can’t trust. With everybody here, they’re just trying to get to know you, get to know you as a person and as a football player. I understand where they’re coming from."

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