Scouting combine: Day 3

News, notes and analysis from Day 3 at the NFL scouting combine (Saturday)….

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Teo

TE’O COMES ACROSS AS A CONTRITE, EARNEST … DUPE

INDIANAPOLIS – Is it hyperbole to call Manti Te’o one of the most embarrassed humans in history?

Probably. But that’s what you get when you might be among the most naïve.

How embarrassing has it been since Jan. 16 to be the disgraced Notre Dame linebacker? About as bad as you’d think.

“Definitely, (for) anybody to go through (that). It was definitely embarrassing,” the Notre Dame linebacker said Saturday at his NFL scouting combine news conference, five weeks after his infamous ‘catfishing’ incident became the talk of the cyber and pop-culture worlds.

“You walk into a grocery store and then you kind of, like, get people’s double-takes and see that they’re staring at you,” Te’o said. “It’s only going to make me stronger, and it definitely has.”

Has Te’o gotten over the intense embarrassment?

“Oh, definitely,” he said. “If I was still embarrassed, I wouldn’t be standing here.”

Te’o was composed and contrite as he faced more than 200 members of the NFL press.

teoIt was his first news conference since the heart-tugging story he’d been peddling all fall long – about having fallen in love with a woman who then died in a car crash – was proven false.

Te’o steadfastly claims he was the victim of a cruel, embarrassing hoax. But after having discovered in early December the woman never existed, that he was being ‘catfished’ by a cruel prankster, he let the bogus story continue to be told for more than a month, including during the intense media run-up to Notre Dame’s appearance in U.S. college football’s national championship game on Jan. 8.

He has admitted, in 1-on-1 interviews before Saturday, that that was wrong to do that.

Since Deadspin, TMZ and the like went DEFCON 3 in late January, Te’o has insisted that he naively believed the fictious woman he grew close to in phone calls and on social media – named Lennay Kekua – was real.

Also, that he truly was heartbroken upon learning she’d supposedly been killed on Sept. 11, the same day his grandmother really did die.

Deadspin revealed that a California man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was behind the hoax, himself pretending to be Kekua in phone calls with Te’o, and that Tuiasosopo admitted using a photo of a high school classmate of his to serve as Kekua in social-media communications with Te’o.

What you want to know is whether Te’o was in on the hoax all along, right?

Who knows. Te’o might be more worthy of the Pathological Liars Anonymous presidency than Tommy Flanagan. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

TeoBut Te’o sure came across on Saturday as the hard-luck, naïve dupe he basically has portrayed himself to be.

One thing that bugged me about all this was Te’o didn’t appear angry enough at Tuiososopo in his televised interview with Katie Couric. Asked Saturday if he considered legal action against the hoaxter, Te’o said:

“I think that’s the worst thing you could do. Both families are going through chaos. There’s not only people camped out at my house, there’s people camped out at his house.

“Always try and forgive. If you forgive, you’ll get the majority of the blessings.”

The fact Te’o had never met Kekua in person also had red-lined my suspicion meter.

He was asked Saturday why he never tried to arrange an in-meeting person with his ‘girlfriend.’

“I did,” he said. “We made plans but, obviously, it just never worked out.”

Insert 1960s sitcom laughtrack here.

What surely isn’t a joking matter in all this was how the incident negatively impacted Te’o’s family. When he discussed that, his pain – and sincerity – rang truest.

“The hardest part … was just to see not necessarily my first name, but my last name (associated with the incident),” he said. “You treasure your last name. That’s what you hold dear. That’s something that when you pass on, the only thing that stays here is your last name.

“To see your last name everywhere and know I represented my family and all my cousins and aunties and uncles …”

He didn’t complete that thought, but later gave an example of his family’s travails.

“I think the toughest moment, to be honest with you, was a phone call that I got from my sister, where she told me that they had to sneak my own family in their home because there were people parked out in the yard.

“To know that my family was in this situation because of the actions I committed was definitely the hardest part for me.”

Te’o concluded the news conference by saying, “Hopefully after this, I answered the things I needed to answer and we can move on with football (only).”

Not likely. Not any time soon. If ever.

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20 NFL teams in line to grill Te’o:

INDIANAPOLIS – Are NFL teams grilling Manti Te’o about you-know-what?

You better believe it.

“They want to be able to trust their player,” Te’o said Saturday at his NFL scouting combine news conference. “You don’t want to invest in somebody you can’t trust. With everybody here, they’re just trying to get to know you … as a person and as a football player.

“And I understand where they’re coming from.”

Two teams already have interviewed him, Te’o said – the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers – and 18 more interviews are lined up.

Is his catfishing incident a hurdle for him in convincing NFL teams he’s an honest man, in addition to being the No. 1 or 2 rated inside linebacker on the field in the coming draft?

“It could be a hurdle, but it could also be a great opportunity to show who you really are,” Te’o said. “And that’s the way I have approached it.”

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‘SHOELACE’ TIED TO SWITCHING POSITIONS:

INDIANAPOLIS – Denard (Shoelace) Robinson still wore untied shoes on Saturday at his NFL scouting combine news conference.

He might want to tie them up for the first time in his life on Sunday.

That’s when he joins the other 37 wide receivers in running the 40-yard dash – and performing other athleticism drills – for NFL talent evaluators.

Robinson was one of college football’s fastest players the past four years at the University of Michigan. He is expected to post blazing-fast times in the 40.

The native of Deerfield Beach, Fla., was the Wolverines’ starting quarterback throughout 2010 and 2011, and was so again through October this past fall until severely aggravating a nerve injury in his right, throwing arm.

Robinson played sparingly the rest of the way, sometimes at running back, sometimes at wide receiver and often at quarterback – but he never threw another pass.

He has decided to be a wide receiver and kick returner as a pro.

His arm is only “60%” healed right now, he said. And that is problematic because the feeling hasn’t fully returned to his hand, which makes catching balls and fielding kicks considerably more difficult.

“It’s still coming along,” Robinson said. “I’m continuing to get better. I just got some X-rays yesterday and some examination … I’ve got to come back in April to get a second checkup.”

Surgery remains an option, he said.

His hand remains “a little tingling and a little numb.”

Robinson struggled mightily in both of his new duties last month at the Senior Bowl. He often cradle-caught balls, rather than used his hands, and in trying to field punts he often looked as lost as a T-baller trying to gauge pop flies for the first time.

But Robinson said he has worked hard on both disciplines since the Senior Bowl.

“It’s kind of different. You’re jumping into it. Playing quarterback your whole life and then jumping into playing receiver, and you’re going against the best. I think I did all right, but I could’ve done better and I’ll continue to get better now.”

He’d even entertain taking snaps at running back, or even switch to defence and try cornerback.

“Whatever teams tell me,” he said. “If they tell me to play quarterback, or anything, I’ll be willing to do it.”

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‘CHRISTMAS’ CAN’T COME SOON ENOUGH FOR NEW NFL COACHES:

INDIANAPOLIS – Being a new head coach in today’s NFL is like being a kid whose parents load Christmas presents under the tree at summer’s end.

You can see them. But you can’t open them for 3-4 more months.

Sorry.

Of the eight new NFL head coaches, all but Andy Reid of the Kansas City Chiefs are head coaches for the first time at the NFL level.

They’re beyond anxious to talk football with their players, but – because of the 2011 CBA with the players union – they are forbidden from doing so.

“There’s so much time between when you get the job and you meet the players,” Bills head coach Doug Marrone said at the NFL scouting combine. “And that’s very difficult, because people are going to ask you a lot of questions about personnel roster, evaluations – and you really want to deal with the players first (about that).

“For me, my excitement – what I think about all the time – is that our players voluntarily will be reporting on April 2. So having the chance to meet them, face to face, is really what excites us.”

Until then, Marrone and his newly assembled staff of assistants will be fine-tuning playbooks on offence, defence and special teams, and generally “making sure everything is prepared for when the players come.”

Gus Bradley, the former Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator who’s now head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars, sounded even more frustrated.

“I think some people say, ‘Gus, things are going good. It must feel like you’re on a honeymoon.’ I go, ‘I know, I am, it’s great, are you kidding me? Every day is awesome.’

“But something’s missing. We’ve got to get on the field and coach these guys, and I want them to have the same excitement and enthusiasm that we have as a staff. Because we feel good about them. And I think that that’s the first step, to say, ‘Hey, you know what? We can get this thing going here now a little bit.’ … That’s why I’m so looking forward to April.”

For these guys, ‘Christmas’ can’t come fast enough.

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306-POUND TACKLE RUNS 40 IN … 4.65 seconds!

INDIANAPOLIS (UPDATED) – Terron Armstead is ridiculously fast for a big man.

On Saturday morning, the 6-foot-5, 306-pound offensive tackle had everybody at the NFL scouting combine buzzing, after he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.65 seconds.

The University of Arkansas (Pine Bluff) product’s official time was later downgraded to 4.71 seconds, after his second of two runs. But still.

How fleet is that for an offensive lineman?

Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice ran the 40 in 4.65 seconds at the NFL scouting combine in 1985. Yeah, same time as Armstead’s unofficial.

What’s more, NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock said a 4.65 for an O-lineman is the equivalent of 4.10 for a wide receiver or running back. Mayock also said Armstead is the fastest-rising player on draft boards so far at the combine.

The record in the 40 at the combine is 4.24 seconds, set by running back Chris Johnson in 2008.

Before the combine, Armstead was the 10th ranked offensive tackle in this draft class, according to CBSSports.com, with a third-round projection.

While talking with reporters at the combine, Armstead said it was his goal to show NFL types his “athleticism, speed, quickness – be smooth, be fluid.”

Uh, yeah. Mission accomplished.

“I’ve been blessed with a unique skill set,” he said. “I’m extremely light on my feet for a big guy, I have to say. It’s a blessing. It’s nothing that was coached.”

No other offensive lineman in Saturday morning’s first group ran the 40 in under 5.01 seconds, unofficially. In the second group, University of Oklahoma offensive tackle Lane Johnson ran it in 4.75 seconds, and his time later was upgraded to 4.72 – just .01 behind Armstead’s.

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