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Chargers' Freeney misses OTA, questions loom

The SportsXchange

SAN DIEGO -- One San Diego Charger everyone was talking about wasn't at practice.

Another Charger everyone wants to talk to, wasn't talking.

And so it went as the team began this week's organized team activities Monday.

The Chargers created a stir over the weekend by agreeing to terms with defensive end Dwight Freeney. The veteran free agent will fill a giant hole left when Melvin Ingram blew out his knee during practice last week. It is believed Ingram is lost for the season.

So enter Freeney, although at age 33 and coming off a five-sack season, some wonder how much he has left. He wasn't there to discuss it Monday due to a prior engagement, but that prospect didn't diminish the excitement the Chargers had about securing Freeney.

"I told him I've been around a lot of awfully good pass-rushers," said John Pagano, the Chargers' defensive coordinator, "but not one of the premiere pass-rushers to play the game."

Freeney is certainly that -- or at least he was. He had 107.5 career sacks in 11 seasons with the Colts, but his production has been in a steady decline. He's gone from 13.5 sacks in 2009, to 10 in '10, 8.5 in '11 to five last year.

He'll also be asked to play in a 3-4 alignment, something he had to do last year in Indianapolis after his first 10 seasons had him in a 4-3.

The Charger everyone wants to converse with is Manti Te'o. However, the celebrated linebacker from Notre Dame, a 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist, has been deemed off limits by the organization after speaking with the media following the first day of rookie camp.

Ever since, he has been shielded by the team's public relations staff and coach Mike McCoy.

"We have a plan for him," McCoy said. "He is doing a nice job, and he will be out here when he comes out here."

Which translates into Te'o not being available to the media until this summer's minicamp. Odd, in that Te'o was very comfortable in front of the press and seems a tad bewildered why he is being babied by the Chargers.

If staying out of the spotlight is the motivation, someone forgot to tell Te'o. He attended the Maxim magazine Hot 100 Women party last week in Hollywood, with Te'o's fake girlfriend earning the No. 69 spot.

McCoy said he was unaware Te'o went to the party.

While every veteran and every other rookie is available to reporters, Te'o is being treated differently.

"He is a young player, and the organization has a plan for him," McCoy added again.

The football plan is for Te'o to start opposite Donald Butler. If Te'o can fill that spot, if Freeney can supply a push off the edge and if Cam Thomas can shine in his first year starting at nose tackle, the new-look defense could be a team strength.

But first Freeney has to be seen. And at some point, Te'o must be heard.
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