Te’o says he’s ignored flak over girlfriend hoax

Manti Te’o says his rough rookie season has nothing to do with

the flak he’s faced over getting fooled by a hoax involving a fake

girlfriend while at Notre Dame.

The San Diego Chargers rookie linebacker said in his first

conference call of the season Tuesday that he has yet to play a

complete game in the NFL but that’s because of his adjustment to

the pros and not because he’s distracted in any way by the catcalls

from opposing teams or their fans.

Te’o said he does a good job blocking out the chatter from the

stands.

”I’ve definitely heard things, but my job is to go out there

and to play ball and do my best and hopefully come out with a win.

So, all the other outside stuff, if I’m paying attention to that,

then I’m in trouble,” Te’o said. ”But that’s what fans do. They

love their team. They’re passionate about their team, so it’s

nothing that I didn’t expect.”

Te’o said he hasn’t really caught much grief from opposing

players.

”I haven’t really run into any of that. I think as players we

understand that we’re all in the same situation. We’re all here to

play ball and we’re here as football players, we’re trying to

provide a life for our families and that’s about it,” Te’o

said.

”When we step on the football field, it’s all about football

and competing. So, I haven’t really run into any of that

stuff.”

Yet, when asked a follow-up question about opponents trying to

get under his skin, he did acknowledge that they sometimes bring up

the issue.

”But to be honest, I’m so locked into the game that basically I

don’t really catch it,” he said. ”And at this point, it doesn’t

really bother me. So, it’s no big deal, really.”

Te’o was an All-American linebacker whose draft stock fell after

his poor showing in the BCS championship game against Alabama and

once the hoax was revealed as front office personnel wondered if

he’d be mentally tough enough to handle the grief he’d face over

the girlfriend hoax.

The Chargers selected him in the second round of the draft, but

his development was slowed by a sprained right foot in training

camp and he was inactive for the Chargers’ first three games.

Since then, he’s been steady, collecting 69 tackles and breaking

up four passes while playing inside linebacker next to Donald

Butler.

Chargers coach Mike McCoy said Te’o is facing the usual growing

pains a rookie experiences but ”each week he’s gotten a little bit

better.”

Te’o, however, has yet to record an interception or a sack or

really have a big impact on a game for the Chargers (6-7), who

visit the Broncos (11-2) Thursday night.

”I still haven’t had a complete game yet,” Te’o said. ”I’ve

felt the most growth I would have to say the Kansas City game (on

Nov. 24). There was a different feel to that game, I was

comfortable to a level where I could just move. … I’m looking

forward to a time when I can have that complete game and I’m

constantly working to do that.”

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on

Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton