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Manti Te'o endures his media penance at NFL combine

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o holds a news conference with reporters at the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. (Photo: Associated Press)

By Tim Graham

INDIANAPOLIS -- NFL teams are grilling Manti Te'o about his fabricated dead girlfriend.

That has been happening here at the NFL scouting combine behind closed doors. The Buffalo Bills will be among the 20 teams Te'o speaks with, and every one of them has asked him tough questions.

"No," Te'o replied with a laugh when I asked him if any of the teams have let him off the hook. "They're all asking me."

The interrogation went public this afternoon.

Te'o began to rehabilitate his reputation in the NFL media community with an effective news conference in Lucas Oil Stadium. The 15-minute session was the first time Te'o met reporters in an uncontrolled setting since the national championship game.

NFL pundits and analysts are rehashing what the interview session meant for Te'o. Some think he salvaged some dignity. Others say the media buying into his perceived genuineness is what began this girlfriend-hoax mess in the first place.

Te'o said today he was just "trying to enjoy the moment" of being at the combine. He calmly and convincingly handled every girlfriend question -- even a late volley from the New York Post about whether he was dating anyone "in real life."

Te'o admitted his embarrassment over the saga, expressed regret over how he handled a situation that brought heartache to his family, didn't get defensive and occasionally chuckled at the absurdity of it all.

"It was just a whirlwind of stuff," Te'o said of how the truth unraveled on his inspirational story of playing through his girlfriend's death. It turned out he never met her. She had been invented.

"I was a 21-year-old at that time, just trying to get your thoughts right. Everything was just chaos."

He said he would not take legal action against Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who confessed to being the hoax mastermind.

"That's the worse thing you can do," Te'o said. "Both families are going through chaos. There's not only people camped out at my house. There's people camped out at his house.

"I went through what I went through. I always try to forgive, and that's definitely benefited me."

The Bills are a possibility for Te'o. They were weak at linebacker before they cut leading-tackler Nick Barnett.

"What I bring to the table is a lot of heart, a lot of energy and somebody who works hard," Te'o said. "I've always said I'm a guy who hates losing more than he likes to win.

"A team will get somebody who's humble, works hard and doesn't say much and will do everything it takes to win."

When the NFL media representative ended the Q&A session and thanked Te'o for his time, Te'o didn't dash off the podium as you might expect. Te'o had more to say before departing.

"This has been a hard, but tremendous ride for me and my family and the University of Notre Dame," Te'o said. "I'd just like to thank my parents, family, friends, the University of Notre Dame and everybody that supports me. I can't do it without all of you.

"Just, hopefully after this, I answered the things I needed to answer and we can move on to football."


2013 draft | 2013 NFL scouting combine | Manti Te'o | Nick Barnett
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |