Meet Manti Te’o’s replacement, Bront Bird

By Ross Jones,

The story in the San Diego Chargers linebacker corps was supposed to be rookie Manti Te’o. A sprained right foot derailed it.

Enter, an unlikely starter, Bront Bird, who stepped in and starred, making 14 tackles in the season-opening loss to the Houston Texans.

It’s been a long road for Bird, who went undrafted from Texas Tech in 2011, released in 2012 and, and after Week, 1 was the league’s second-leading tackler.

“This is a crazy business man,” Bird told in a telephone interview. “I’m definitely not the only person this has ever happened to, but one second you’re nowhere in the NFL then the next second you can be starting. It’s a crazy and wild experience.

“It’s all about trust in this business. If the coaches trust in you to go out and make plays and make the calls. I hope I’m doing everything I can to maintain that trust.”

Bird was relentless, registering a team-high in tackles. Although the Chargers fumbled away a 21-point lead in the second half, Bird was encouraged by how well the defense played when they’re in unison.

The Chargers traveled to Philadelphia Friday to make final preparations for game day and to get accustomed to the Eastern time zone. That, combined with an early kickoff, usually creates problems for west coast teams. San Diego has more to worry about than the snooze button.

Eagles head coach Chip Kelly unveiled his trendy offense in a high-octane win over the Redskins on Monday.  He has the league wondering what other tricks he has.

Bird will be making the calls and executing the plays and believes the best way to defend it is to be disciplined and make sure everyone is lined up.

The tempo of the Eagles offense has been a talking point since they ran a whopping 54 plays in the first half against Washington.

“You obviously have to get ready for little gimmicks and stuff, but at the end of the day it’s all just assignments,” the 6-foot-4, 250-pound Bird said. “People can move, gaps can move but if you have the tight end no matter where he goes, then you still have the tight end. I don’t really put too much into it. I think the teams who aren’t concentrating and aren’t ready to get lined up it affects, but I don’t think that will be us.

“We watched a little bit of Oregon film and we wanted to see what they did in the preseason and last week. They have a lot of weapons and it’s a good offense especially in the NFL because people aren’t used to it, but I think we have a really good game plan and I’m really excited to see it be executed.”

Bird, 24, won’t be alone, of course. With the veteran presence of safety Eric Weddle, linebacker Jarret Johnson and Dwight Freeney, the Chargers will be prepared to slow an offense that strikes at lightning speeds.

Te’o, who hasn’t practiced since injuring his foot Aug. 8 in the preseason opener, will be unavailable this week. So, the Chargers will make the Bird call, again.