CTL: Can Te'o be believed?
With less than a month separating Manti Te’o from the NFL combine, the focus continues to be on his off-the-field girlfriend hoax rather than how his football skills will fit on an NFL club.
Lennay Kekua isn’t going away, even though she never existed. Te’o has now spoken on and off camera about the situation, making his case that he wasn’t involved in any part of the hoax.
Now that Te’o is likely done with interviews for a bit, his full attention can turn to preparing for the NFL combine next month in Indianapolis -- where questions about the hoax are sure to resurface.
Te’o would be well-served to speak to reporters at the NFL combine and be open and honest about the Kekua hoax, but he’s not required to meet the media in Indianapolis. He could just as easily deflect questions about the saga and only answer football-related queries, too.
But that’s public questioning. Each team will have plenty of questions for Te’o, with some probing into the Kekua hoax more than others.
One former NFL player told CSNChicago.com the best thing for Te’o would be to be honest and forthright about the Kekua story, since NFL teams are likely just as willing as he is to move on from it.
The worst thing Te’o could do, the former player said, was offer excuses about the story -- and, too, use Kekua as a reason for his poor play against Alabama in the BCS Championship. His off-the-field character won’t be of much concern to teams, either, and they’ll judge him on his “football character” -- in other words, his dedication, work ethic, love of the game, etc., the former player explained.
That doesn’t mean Te’o won’t be questioned at all about the Kekua hoax by NFL teams. Some teams may dig deep to find the truth outside of interviews with Te’o. But another former player told CSNChicago.com the linebacker’s “saving grace” is his agent, Tom Condon, who can keep the focus on football for his client in Indianapolis.
The Kekua saga likely won’t affect Te’o from a football standpoint, even in the hyper-scrutinized nature of the next three months leading up to the NFL Draft. From a personal standpoint, he and his family certainly want this saga -- one that’s led the Te’o name to become the butt of jokes from coast to coast -- to go away.
Te’o’s interview with Couric won’t close the book on this story, not with a bevy of questions lingering. Most of the evidence that’s out there supports Te’o’s claim, but yet questions remain regarding plenty of aspects to this bizarre story.
On Thursday, before Te’o’s interview with ABC’s Katie Couric hit the air, the lawyer of alleged perpetrator Ronaiah Tuiasosopo said it was his client who was talking to Te’o the entire time -- in other words, Tuiasosopo was impersonating a female.
A trio of voicemails were released Thursday as well, with the messages purportedly left on Te’o’s phone from the person he thought was Kekua certainly sounding like a female voice. Right now, the last part of this story yet to be filled in is from Tuiasosopo’s end -- when we hear from him (and hear his impression of Kekua, too) perhaps we’ll move closer to closure on this saga.
But the complete details of everythings surrounding this saga may never be known. A large gray area will exist in which observers can draw conclusions one way or the other on Te’o, Tuiasosopo and the entire story.