QB Geno Smith at the podium on Friday……. Notes from a whirlwind Day 2 at the NFL scouting combine, followed by my feature on Smith:
INDIANAPOLIS – Manti Te’o faces the music – or more specifically, hundreds of reporters – on Saturday at the NFL scouting combine.
The disgraced Notre Dame linebacker has a lot of explaining to do, five weeks after news first broke that the story he’d been peddling all fall long about having a girlfriend who died was untrue.
Te’o claims he was the victim of a hoax, having fallen in love online with a nonexistent woman. But he let the bogus story continue to be told for more than a month after having discovered it was untrue.
Te’o has insisted in his only interviews about the matter since the story went giga-viral – 1-on-1s with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap, ABC’s Katie Couric and USA Today’s Jim Corbett – that he naively believed the woman – a Lennay Kekua – was real, and that he was heartbroken upon learning she’d supposedly died on Sept. 11.
He’d never met her.
In fact, the woman never existed. Deadspin.com alleges a Californian man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo was behind the hoax, himself pretending to be the woman in phone calls with Te’o, and using a photo of a high school classmate to serve as Kekua on social media.
Te’o is one of the most highly regarded inside linebackers for this year’s NFL draft, and is still expected to be drafted in the first r ound.
Saturday is the first time Te’o will be grilled in public about the incident. More than 800 media credentials have been issued for the combine, and most reporters probably will engulf whichever of three podiums Te’o will be assigned to speak at.
Two of Te’o’s teammates at Notre Dame – tight end Tyler Eifert and running back Cierre Wood – on Friday backed the linebacker at their respective combine news conferences.
“I’m real close with him,” Wood said. “He was my next-door neighbour (at Notre Dame). We all basically lived in the same complex. When the whole thing went down, I basically called him and asked him, ‘Was he OK?’ and stuff like that.
“His basic response was that he was cool, just basically embarrassed. But who wouldn’t be?”
Wood said after the controversy blew up, Te’o was pestered on campus to a ridiculous extent.
“It was really tough. We already had people coming to our doors, asking for autographs and stuff like that. But as soon as that happened, (it increased) tenfold.”
Eifert said Te’o “is one of my good friends. He’s a good person who has a good heart, who got stuck in a bad situation.
“I’m sure he’ll get a lot of questions about it, but he’s a smart guy. He didn’t do anything wrong. He’ll be able to answer those questions … There’s no handbook as to handle that situation.”
JUDGE JUDY, RONALD REAGAN AND JIM HARBAUGH:
San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh cited two paragons of honesty in explaining why NFL scouting combine participants ought not lie in their interviews with teams.
“To me, I’m a big fan of the Judge Judy show,” Harbaugh said Friday at his news conference. “And when you lie in Judge Judy’s courtroom, it’s over. Your credibility is completely lost. You stand no chance of winning that case. So, I learned that from her.
“It’s very powerful – and true. Because if somebody does lie to you, how can you ever trust anything they say after that. But, yeah, Ronald Reagan – another person of great wisdom and advice, said, ‘Trust, but we will verify.’”
VACATION FOR RUSSELL WILSON? FORGET IT, CARROLL SAYS:
On Thursday, Seattle Seahawks GM John Schneider said workaholic quarterback Russell Wilson needed to take a vacation.
“He ain’t getting’ it, because he’s already back in the building, working,” head coach Pete Carroll told me on Friday, after his scouting combine news conference.
“I talked to him two days ago, and I wasn’t asking him to stay away. I know he doesn’t want to … The (new) rules really have hindered his activity. He wants to be out there throwing and playing catch with guys, working out. And he can’t.
“He’s just a true worker. He wants to be at it, he wants to get better, and he wants to be the best there ever was … and literally he will do everything he possibly can to do that. So vacations are not in order for him.”
GIANTS LINEMAN HAS SURGERY … ON HIS BODY:
Tom Coughlin might like losing more than he likes elaborating on his players’ injuries.
The New York Giants head coach was asked Thursday if centre David Baas has had any medical procedures done since the season ended.
“Baas has had a little surgery, yeah,” Coughlin said.
Of what nature?
“On his body.”
Alll righty, then.
Baas battled hip, shoulder and neck injuries during the Giants’ 9-7 season.
PAGANO ON HIS HEALTH:
Chuck is strong. But he probably won’t ever be the same, physically.
Chuck Pagano, the Indianapolis Colts head coach, said Thursday at the NFL scouting combine he “feels good” after returning to work in late December, following a three-month leave to battle a rare form of leukemia.
“I feel pretty normal now, as far as going through the normal stuff a football coach goes through on a day-in, day-out basis,” he said. “Whether (my health) will ever be exactly the same, I don’t think it will ever be that way. I feel good. I feel like most of that is behind me.”
Pagano’s hair is growing back in, and he sported his old goatee.
“I haven’t found a gel yet that will quite calm (my hair) down. We’re still looking for one. My wife’s trying to help me out.”
Pagano, in his first season in Indy, and interim head coach Bruce Arians – now head coach of the Arizona Cardinals – led the Colts to an 11-5 record and playoff berth in 2012.
TIGHT ENDS ARE QUEENS OF THE BOARD NOW: MIKE SMITH:
Atlanta Falcons head coach Mike Smith on the versatility of tight ends, strategically, in today’s NFL:
“It’s like any chess game. The tight end position is a little like the queen you can move all around the board. Its’ not like the rook or the bishop. The position is one you can move all around the board, and you can use it to your advantage.”
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No. 1 QB Geno Smith exudes confidence, not cockiness
INDIANAPOLIS – Understand, Geno Smith isn’t cocky. He’s just confident.
Widely regarded as the No. 1 quarterback in this year’s NFL draft class, Smith succeeded in explaining that at his Friday news conference at the scouting combine.
“I don’t feel any pressure,” the product of West Virginia University said. “I’m totally confident in my abilities. I’m not cocky or trying to say I’m this all-world player right now, because I have many areas I need to grow.
“But I do feel like I have a great, tremendous skill set, and that I have an opportunity to showcase that. And it’s something I look forward to.”
He’ll have his chance on Sunday here at Lucas Oil Stadium, the football home of the Indianapolis Colts.
Smith will take part in the seven athleticism drills as well as passing drills, as hundreds of coaches and talent evaluators from the NFL’s 32 clubs intently observe from the field, stands and luxury boxes.
Measuring in Friday at 6-foot-2 at 218 pounds, the 22-year-old player born Eugene Cyril Smith III is seen by most as a likely first-round pick. Some think he will go in the Top 10, perhaps even No. 1 overall to the Kansas City Chiefs.
A solid performance here would go a long way toward that end.
Smith elaborated on his abilities in a matter-of-fact way, with enough humility and perspective to come across impressively.
As teams grill him in 15-minute sessions, that surely will come across there, too.
“You can watch the tape and see all the throws I’m making,” he said. “There still needs to be improvement. Inconsistency is something I’ve struggled with, I believe. Overall, I put up good statistics. But there’s some situations where I could have made a better throw, and I’ll be the first person to say that.”
Regardless of where he might be drafted, Smith said he will join that team with the same attitude.
“It’s not going to change. I’m going to continue to grow as an athlete and a person.
“I can’t expect to prove any (doubters) wrong without even playing a down in the NFL. My only expectation is to become as polished as I possibly can when I enter the NFL.”
Smith is extremely athletic, and has a canon for an arm. Some might think he ran a lot of zone-read in college, but that was only true early on. As a senior he played in a pass-centric offence.
“I played in three different systems in college. I’ve also played in the read-option system.
“I think I have the skill set that fits any offence. I can play within the pocket, but I’m athletic enough to run that style of offence. Whatever it takes for me to put my team in the best position to win games, that’s what I’ll do and that’s what I’ve always felt was necessary for me and anyone else to play quarterback.”
Through the first month of the 2012 season, Smith and the Mountaineers offence put up incredible point totals and statistics. Then they hit a wall, and the team lost most of its remaining games.
To get a sense of how strong a leader Smith was, and what he might bring to the NFL, he said this of that about-face.
“When we went through that stretch, I was the first one to stand up in front of the team and let them know – we’re going to work even harder and we’re not going to put our heads down,” Smith said.
“That’s the one thing I take from that experience, is that being a leader, you’re not going to deal with fair situations all the time … I’ve got to set the bar and lead by example. That’s what I did for my team.”
And that’s what he’ll likely be doing for an NFL team starting a week or so after the April 25-27 draft.