Improved 40 boosts Manti Te’o’s draft outlook; Bears squarely in mix
BY MARK POTASH email@example.com March 26, 2013 11:05PM
Linebacker Manti Te'o runs the 40 yard sprint during Notre Dame Pro Day Tuesday March 26, 2013 in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
Updated: April 28, 2013 7:14AM
SOUTH BEND — For the first time since his life turned upside-down in January, Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o looked and felt Tuesday like the Manti Te’o who won everything but the Heisman Trophy last season and ran and moved like the Manti Te’o who was a sure-fire first-round NFL draft pick.
‘‘At the end of the (NFL scouting) combine, I interviewed him, and he was completely drained from the four days with the media circus, with everything he went through,’’ NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock said. ‘‘Today he was energized. He was happy. He was relieved. And I think getting the monkey off his back with all the off-the-field stuff about the hoax, I think that’s a big piece of it. The process is playing itself out.’’
In an almost perfunctory part of that process, Te’o erased the biggest on-the-field knock on his NFL prospectus at Notre Dame’s pro day Tuesday at the Loftus Center. Te’o was timed from 4.69 to 4.78 in the 40-yard dash and looked comfortable, crisp and clean in workouts before representatives of 26 of the NFL’s 32 teams, including Jeff Shiver, the Bears’ assistant director of college scouting.
‘‘He helped himself,’’ one long-time NFL scout said. ‘‘He ran better. He had a nice position workout. He did a good job.’’
Te’o’s slower-than-expected 40 time of 4.82 at the scouting combine sparked speculation he might drop into the second round. Now there appears to be little doubt he’ll go in the first round, and he’s definitely in play for the Bears at No. 20.
‘‘I think his interest starts at 19 with the Giants and 20 with the Bears,’’ Mayock said. ‘‘And Minnesota is sitting at 23 and 25. Between 19-32, he’s going to go somewhere in there.’’
The lower 40 time is significant but not telltale.
‘‘The most important thing is the tape,’’ one scout said, ‘‘and his tape is excellent.’’
‘‘It just makes it easier for a scout or a coach to go in and sell him on draft day,’’ Mayock said. ‘‘You can go in there and say, ‘He’s a 4.75 40 guy. And that’s what we saw on tape. He’s not a 4.83 guy.’ For the most, part teams already had a real good feel for where they were on him. This just helps a little bit.’’
As for Te’o, he was glad the day was over but clearly enjoyed every aspect of it — even the 20-minute news conference after the workout. He was especially pleased to be working out with 12 Notre Dame teammates — from his good buddy Tyler Eifert to former walk-on Chris Salvi of Lake Forest and Carmel high school in Mundelein.
‘‘I felt good,’’ Te’o said. ‘‘I’m at home now. I’m in a place where I’m comfortable, surrounded by people that I know. It was kind of a grand finale kind of thing, with everybody there. I had guys around me I spent the last four years with that I was comfortable with. It was more comfortable being out here and performing here at Notre Dame. I was very pleased with what happened.’’
Te’o said he has no idea where he’ll be drafted. He’s aware the Bears have an opening for a middle linebacker of the future after parting with Brian Urlacher but says he has no opinion on the matter.
‘‘I saw (the Urlacher news) on the ticker when I was playing ‘Madden 2013,’ ’’ Te’o said. ‘‘That’s crazy. But I don’t really pay attention to that stuff. I just let teams do what they do, and I do what I can do. I wasn’t too sure how to respond to what happened. I was like, ‘Oh, wow. That’s very sad.’ ’’
Now, he can’t wait for draft day.
‘‘If you ask anybody who has gone through this process, this is possibly the best day ever,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s a big, big burden off your shoulders. It feels like it’s your birthday. I’m very glad that it’s over.’’