The San Diego Chargers have muzzled Manti Te’o from speaking with the media.
That hasn’t kept Te’o’s new teammates from speaking about the rookie outside linebacker with the controversial past.
Te’o has spent the past five months in the mainstream spotlight for his connection with a complex hoax involving a fake girlfriend named Lenay and scam artist who successfully “catfished” a college football star. This is the primary reason San Diego’s media relations department has made Te’o off-limits for now
Te’o himself, though, is doing his part to leave the past behind.
Chargers fullback Le’Ron McClain said Monday that Te’o has done an outstanding job integrating himself into the team’s locker room since joining San Diego as a second-round draft choice.
“I don’t think there will be anything like hazing,” McClain told co-host Jim Miller and me on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “The guy came in, and he’s been working since he stepped on the field, stepped in the weight room. He’s caught everybody’s eye to see that he’s a great player.
“I just think him handling this situation, everything that was down on him, he was still showing faith. He just wants to play football and be the best player he could be. I don’t even think about the (hoax) no more.”
McClain does know that Te’o is still trying to regain recognition as an outstanding football player primarily rather than pop-culture curiosity. When recounting a verbal exchange with Te’o during a recent offseason practice, McClain was sure to emphasize that the jokes shared weren’t about the "catfishing" incident.
A Heisman Trophy finalist, Te’o is the frontrunner to start alongside fellow inside linebacker Donald Butler.
“The sky’s the limit for (Te’o),” McClain said. “I’m looking forward to seeing him on Sundays.”