Saturday marked the first on-field workouts at the NFL Combine, but an event off the field was the center of attention.
Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o held his press conference in the media lounge as a few hundred reporters and camera operators crowded around him.
It was the first time Te’o has faced the media – other than his one-on-one interview with ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap – since it was discovered that the inspirational story of his dead girlfriend turned out to be a hoax and that Lennay Kekua never existed at all.
The demeanor and composure showed by Te’o at his 15-minute press conference left even the most jaded sports writers impressed.
Te’o likely was coached on how to act and answer, as many of the Combine participants are, but his situation is unlike any other and he handled it about as well as he could have.
“It’s definitely embarrassing,” he said. “When you’re walking through grocery stores and you’re kind of like giving people double-takes to see if they’re starting at you, it’s definitely embarrassing. I guess it’s part of the process, it’s part of the journey. It’s only going to make me stronger and it definitely has.
“If I was still embarrassed, I wouldn’t be standing in front of you,” he added. “It’s been a great growing experience for me.”
Manti Te’o said he had already met with the Houston Texans and Green Bay Packers and expected to meet with 18 more. Cincinnati head coach Marvin Lewis intimated the Bengals would be one of them when he was asked how much he can learn about the player in the 15 minutes each team is allotted.
“I don’t know that I can understand Manti Teo’ in 15 minutes, I can tell you that,” Lewis said. “I’m going to let what he did on tape speak for him and be his calling card to start off and then we’ll work from there.”
“It still sucks. It’s all speculative football. I know we’re in the big show, but it’s still speculative football. When we start doing football is when we get to July and August. That’s fun.” – Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, expressing his disdain for the Combine and the offseason in general.
“Did you love him?” – CBS Sports NFL writer Pete Prisco to an empty podium after several hundred reporters who had camped out for a 12 p.m. Manti Te’o press conference were informed it was being pushed back a few hours.
“Are you dating anyone in real life?” New York Post reporter Bart Hubbuch to Te’o.
Quarterbacks, running backs and wide receivers will hold their on-field workouts, while defensive linemen and linebackers will do psychological testing, team interviews and the bench press.
The final position group, the defensive backs, will arrive and have their medical exams, media interviews and team interviews.