Will Manti Te'o be able to handle the verbal abuse he's expected to get in the NFL?

Jason Cole
Yahoo! Sports

INDIANAPOLIS – Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o faced a throng of curious reporters and approximately 40 cameramen and handled himself with aplomb, the kind of demeanor that would make any parent proud.

But as Te'o stood at the podium hoping for this whole mess to finally go away so that he could return to the comfort of just being a football player, there was a sense of the very naiveté that landed him here in the first place.

As much as he wants this to go away and as much as Saturday's appearance at the NFL Scouting Combine will help interest dissipate over the long run, he still has a big test ahead.

In short, the locker room and the field aren't going to be fun for Te'o for awhile.

What Te'o has yet to face is the callous, dispassionate and sometimes ugly things that get said on the field or even by teammates in the locker room. The NFL is a place that tests human beings as much mentally as it does physically.

The general public may not like it and may not hear it very much, but players can be downright vulgar in the way they speak to each other. More often than not, the trash talk is nothing more than a series of "Yo Mama" jokes.

[Related: Breaking down the best combine numbers since 1999]

Sometimes, however, it's a series of below-the-belt remarks about anything from the women you date to your sexual orientation. Te'o's story of the girlfriend who wasn't, but who was actually a man, is the kind of material that some players feast upon.

"Oh yeah, I can see some of that happening," one AFC general manager said. "He's going to get some of that on the field, maybe a little in the locker room."

Said an NFC offensive line coach: "Your opponents are going to see what you can take. If they can get in your head, they've got you. No question, there are some people who are going to see what he can handle."

That can be anything from a clever line about having an imaginary girlfriend to the insensitive stuff, like a series of progressively grotesque gay jokes. Don't think for a second that someone in the NFL won't cross that line.

It's happened too many other times in the past.

One instance: During the 1998 season, Denver tight end Shannon Sharpe drove the late Derrick Thomas, a fellow Hall of Famer, to distraction by referring to a woman they both knew during the middle of the game.

That drove Thomas over the edge, as he fought with Sharpe, was kicked out of the game and suspended for another game.

Likewise, in 2008, New England left tackle Matt Light and Miami linebacker Channing Crowder were both kicked out of a game and fined $15,000 each for fighting. Crowder reportedly took several verbal shots at Light's then-girlfriend.

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

Te'o can expect much the same in the NFL. In addition, he'll get plenty of razzing from fans when he plays on the road. For as well as he handled things Saturday, that was just the beginning.

"It's going to take a couple of years to go around the league before he gets past it," the offensive line coach said. "That's just the way it is. It's like [New York Jets coach] Rex Ryan says, 'You have to have skin like an armadillo in this game, not like a deer.'"

Not only that, but Te'o's teammates could put him through plenty of hazing.

On Saturday, for instance, Te'o talked about the chance to play for Baltimore, which is in the process of replacing retired linebacker Ray Lewis.

"I've grown up watching Ray Lewis," Te'o said. "Just watching his intensity, his passion for the game, his love for the game, his work ethic, man, everything in a linebacker that you want to be is in Ray Lewis, from leadership qualities and all that.

"He'll be definitely missed in Baltimore and in the NFL as a whole, but if I get to go to Baltimore, it's definitely some big shoes to fill, but an opportunity that I will now be honored to have."

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

That all sounds nice, but the Ravens have their fair share of strong personalities, such as linebacker Terrell Suggs. Suggs is the kind of guy who loves a bad joke, whether it's a poking fun at a teammate's clothes or making a stale Monica Lewinsky crack.

In that environment, Te'o is likely to hear a lot more about Lennay Kakua and Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.

For a much longer time that he may like.

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