Manti Te'o will never fully escape the questions about the weird girlfriend hoax scandal that will always be associated with him, but the more he continues to deflect questions and attention from it, the less interested people will be in asking him about it.
Finally, the San Diego Chargers rookie linebacker seems to be getting some good advice.
Te'o is at the rookie symposium, which should make most people wonder if he should be the one on stage lecturing rather than being in the seats. NFL Network asked him about that irony, that he should be the one talking about being a target, and he did his best to answer quick and make a point that didn't invite a follow-up question.
"Obviously, everybody here, you’re on a pedestal," Te'o said to NFL Network. "You’re a role model and somebody that people look up to, so for us, you always have to keep that in mind, to always remain who you are, keep your circle small and take care of the people who took care of you."
Another question about his situation resulted in a roundabout answer about family. He wasn't going to bring up Lennay Kekua, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, Dr. Phil or any of the other ridiculous characters from that debacle. Just be polite and hope to move on.
When asked if he has had a "Welcome to the NFL" moment – and being teased by veterans for thinking you had a girlfriend who didn't exist might stick out – Te'o gave an answer that was meant to not say much but revealed plenty.
"Luckily for me, I’m surrounded by guys in San Diego who really care about football and really care about winning, and really care about people," Te'o told NFL Network. "For me as a rookie, I just keep my head down and keep working and keep my head in the playbook so I don’t give them a reason to yell at me or give them a reason to not like me. I just keep my head down, do my responsibilities and make sure I’m working to be the best linebacker I can be."
That's all Te'o wants to be, a football player. I don't fully agree with the Chargers putting a media blackout on Te'o at minicamp a few weeks ago, but I get it. Unlike January, when his agents and Notre Dame did him no favors by waiting on the scandal story until Deadspin broke it first (the entire narrative would have played out differently had Te'o been the one to announce it, looking like he had nothing to hide), he is getting good advice and learning.
At this rate, if Te'o can show he can play and continues this policy of not bringing attention on that incident, the Chargers organization and his teammates will judge him on how well he can play football, and he'll probably be happier too. Pretty soon the questions will be mostly about playing linebacker. He can answer those just fine.
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