The Chargers knew what they were getting into when they selected linebacker Manti Te'o with the 38th pick in last month's NFL Draft. Earlier this year, the former Notre Dame standout and Heisman Trophy finalist was exposed for having an online dead girlfriend who not only wasn't dead but never existed. Te'o had been the victim of an Internet hoax, a storyline that took over his life for those weeks and months he prepared for the NFL.
Te'o signed with the Chargers shortly after the draft, and he's currently in the middle of OTAs. But according to U-T San Diego's Michael Gehlken, a team spokesman said the rookie will be unavailable to the media until minicamp, which runs June 11-13.
Apparently, it was an "organizational decision."
Coach Mike McCoy addressed the issue Monday.
Mike McCoy on not letting Manti talk "We have a plan like everything else. He's here, he's a young player, the org has a schedule for him"— Marty Caswell (@MartyCaswell) May 20, 2013
Te'o's not off limits to everybody, though; last week, he attended a Maxim party in Hollywood after the magazine honored his pretend ladyfriend as one of the word's hottest women. McCoy sorta talked about that, too.
McCoy on Te'o going to Maxim Hot 100 party "He's going to make certain decisions he's going to make. We'll keep it in house w/what we think"— Marty Caswell (@MartyCaswell) May 20, 2013
Predictably, the plan to keep Te'o under wraps didn't go over well with the folks in the news-gathering business.
@utkevinacee How are they enforcing this Te'o media ban? That's ridiculous. I hope you guys contacted the PFWA and the league.— Bart Hubbuch (@HubbuchNYP) May 20, 2013
Later Monday, Chargers director of public relations Bill Johnston discussed the decision during an appearance on San Diego's XTRA Sports 1360.
“Right now, anything that he does ... makes news,” Johnston said via PFT. “Right now, the news that people are talking about with him is really not the news that we want him to be talking about. Really, he's a rookie, he's a second-round draft pick, yet everybody wants to talk to him. Well, why? Well, it all goes back to that stuff that happened back in the winter, and back when he was at Notre Dame.
“To us, that's not what we want him talking about," Johnston continued. "We want him focused on becoming a Charger, on becoming a better player. Learning our system. Getting comfortable here. We want him talking football, talking Chargers, and that's all we want him focused on right now. So we're doing what we think is in his best interests to stay focused and become the best player he can.”
In the scheme of things, we're not sure this really matters. For starters, it's the slowest part of the offseason, and once training camp, preseason and the regular season get underway, Te'o -- like everybody else in the NFL -- will have to speak to the media.
In the meantime, giving Te'o a few weeks off seems harmless. And if you disagree, just remember the Tebow-Jets circus from last summer. Twenty-four-hour blanket coverage that yielded ... well, nothing in terms of actual news. There's a lesson in there somewhere.