Manti Te'o circus dominates NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis
As the NFL Scouting Combine came to a close in Indianapolis on Tuesday, Notre Dame's Manti Te'o continued to dominate attention on the field and off it. The linebacker, , was deemed by most observers to have performed disappointingly on Monday, the third day of the four-day pre-Draft scouting camp which commands forensic attention from press and fans alike.
To some observers, Te'o's much-discussed presence at the Combine at least helped to distract from a lack of talent in this year's Draft, when considered in the light of the NFL's 2012 intake. Last year three quarterbacks – Robert Griffin III (Baylor), Andrew Luck (Stanford) and Russell Wilson (Wisconsin) – excited much interest. All three went on to star in their first professional season, Griffin for the Washington Redskins, Luck for the Indianapolis Colts and Wilson for the Seattle Seahawks.
This year, on Saturday, Te'o made a 15-minute appearance in the press room, during which questions focused, unsurprisingly, on the story of his imaginary girlfriend, the subsequent media storm () and its effect on how NFL teams were now approaching him.
Asked if he was tired of being asked about the subject – before being asked, relentlessly, about it – Te'o replied: "Yeah, about the incident, I've said all I need to say about that. How I'm handling it going forward is doing what I'm doing, focusing on the moment, focusing on football and the Combine. Not everybody gets this opportunity to be here. I'm sure there's thousands and thousands of people who would like to be here in Indianapolis. Just trying to enjoy the moment."
Any hopes Te'o had of thus putting the issue to rest were, of course, futile – nonetheless, he closed his Q&A by saying: "Hopefully after this I answered the things I needed to answer and we can move on with football. So thank you, everybody."
On the field, Monday saw defensive linemen and linebackers being put through their paces. Te'o, pictured, recorded a 40-yard dash of 4.82 seconds, which was immediately subjected to a blizzard of attention on Twitter and which failed to alleviate pundits' much-discussed concerns over his "overall speed and lateral quickness". also discussed Te'o's disappointing performance in which took place shortly before the scandal over his supposed girlfriend broke, and singled out the Louisiana State outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo and Brigham Young's Ezekiel Ansah as defensive prospects who had performed better at the Combine. On Te'o, however, Brooks concluded:
...his numbers don't detract from the fact that he is a remarkable football player with outstanding instincts, and he confirmed that he has some of those traits by flowing quickly in positional drills. He also looked natural when dropping in space, and he caught the ball better than the majority of defenders in attendance. With most coaches still curious about his lateral skills and explosiveness, Te'o will need to put on a better performance at his pro day workout to retain his upper-level spot on draft boards across the league.
Speaking to NFL.com about his performance – and only his performance – Te'o said: "I did OK, but obviously I can do a lot better. I was running 4.5, 4.6. Today was just a long, long day. I'm just going to go and keep training." Most analysts now expect him to be taken in the second round of the Draft, .
The Combine, which is held at Lucas Oil Stadium, the home of the Colts, provides the media with something to discuss at the start of the NFL's eight-month offseason and gives the NFL teams a chance to subject top college prospects to a number of tests and evaluations, all together and in one place. It also includes medical examinations, which this year revealed that .
Away from the circus which surrounded Te'o, top prospects to emerge from the combine included , the offensive lineman Luke Joeckel, from Texas A&M (), and two cornerbacks, and Tyrann Mathieu of Louisiana State, .