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Schaap tells Te’o’s story, who admits he never met fake, dead girlfriend

Manti Te'o, Jeremy Schaap AP

Under the guise of a “get,” ESPN’s Jeremy Schaap has been enlisted as an unofficial P.R. agent for linebacker Manti Te’o.  And Schaap spent extensive time on SportsCenter presenting Te’o’s side of the story, serving as the indirect mouthpiece for a man who claims no involvement in a hoax but who after months of talking freely and loosely on camera suddenly has no desire to do so.

Schaap opened his extensive on-air monologue by vouching for Te’o’s credibility.

“He answered every question I asked,” Schaap said.  “He didn’t seem nervous.  He seemed to be able to communicate clearly about everything that had happened over the course of several years in his relationship with Lennay Kekua.  To my ears, he made a very convincing witness in his own defense.  I’m sure people will form their own judgments when we have a chance to put out more of what he said.  I don’t know how many questions were asked, but as I said he answered all of them, really unflinchingly.  If he’s making up his side of the story, he’s a very convincing actor.  Of course, there were suggestions over the last couple of days — more than suggestions, theories posited — about whether he was a party to this hoax, if he just helped perpetuate this hoax.  He adamantly denies having anything to do with it, and I asked him directly about that.”

After Schaap explained the situation for roughly 10 minutes, he was asked about Te’o’s demeanor.

“He was very composed, he was very collected,” Schaap said.  “There wasn’t any hemming or hawing.  He certainly seemed to have his timeline down straight.  I did not detect any inconsistencies.  And I think, you know, significantly from his point of view anyway, when it was over he was relieved.  He said he was very relieved to have unburdened himself of this.”

Schaap vouched for Te’o’s  credibility once again in explaining why Te’o didn’t want to do the interview on camera.

“Obviously we would have preferred to do this on camera,” Schaap said.  “He felt more comfortable in a setting without cameras, felt he could be more relaxed without a lot of people in the room.  Wanted this to be as natural a setting as possible.  I think it would have been beneficial to him to do this on camera because as I said he was very composed and collected but that’s not what he wanted to do.  It’s not the first time somebody hasn’t wanted to do an interview on camera.”

Schaap is right, but it’s the first time the otherwise camera-eager Te’o has spurned a camera.  And so instead of giving the audience at large an opportunity to watch him explain himself, the conduit to Te’o’s overall credibility is the guy who was granted an interview that Te’o didn’t have to give at all.  That fact naturally will make the interviewer — whoever it is — more inclined to paint the subject of the interview in a positive light.

Indeed, a questioner less friendly to Te’o’s predicament could have led the report with this statement:  “Te’o admitted that he never met the fake dead girlfriend, and that he lied to his family about meeting her.”  Choosing to focus on that aspect of the interview at the outset of the report would have prompted many to instantly wonder whether, if he lied to his family about meeting her, he’s lying to the rest of us about his lack of involvement in the hoax.

“I knew that — I even knew, that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn’t meet, and that alone — people find out that this girl who died, I was so invested in, I didn’t meet her, as well,” Te’o told Schaap.  “So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away, so that people wouldn’t think that I was some crazy dude.”

In a court of law, having someone admit to a lie is powerful, because it gives the lawyer more than enough ammunition to argue that everything the person says shouldn’t be taken at face value, and possibly shouldn’t be believed at all.

And while Schaap claimed he detected no inconsistencies, Schaap’s explanation of Te’o’s ongoing references in the media to his dead girlfriend after learning that she wasn’t dead speaks to a stew of potential inconsistencies that, if fully and completely probed, could expose a flaw that would be fatal to Te’o’s entire story.

“[Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick] said that on December 6, Te’o got a phone call from a person who he believed to be Lennay Kekua, who he thought had died on September 12,” Schaap explained.  “Te’o says he did get that phone call on December 6, but that did not convince him that this had all been a hoax.  That took longer to get around to.  But between December 6 and December 26, when he went to Notre Dame to tell them about the problem, he continued to talk about Lennay Kekua, his girlfiend, in several interviews, including an interview with our Chris Fowler during the Heisman Trophy presentation on December 8th.  And [Te’o] explained why that happened, because he said he wasn’t convinced that Lennay Kekua hadn’t died, that she was a hoax, now he was thinking maybe she was alive.  She had given him some story about drug dealers.”

So why did he keep referring to her as being dead?

There are more tidbits that appeared not in Schaap’s on-air report (or in the original ESPN.com story that contained only 32 words from Te’o regarding his denial of involvement) that make us wonder how Te’o could have been oblivious to the existence of a hoax, which based on his admission that he lied to his father would cause a reasonable person to wonder whether he’s lying to the rest of us now.

First, the latest ESPN.com article says that “T’eo tried to speak with Kekua via Skype and FaceTime on several occasions, but the person at the other end of the line was in what he called a ‘black box’ and wasn’t seen.”  Second, the ESPN.com article says that Te’o “planned to meet Kekua in person several times, including in Los Angeles and Hawaii, but on each occasion she called off the meeting or sent others in her place.”  Third, the ESPN.com article explains that “Kekua once requested his checking account number in order to send him money,” but that “Te’o did not provide his account number.”  Fourth, the ESPN.com article says that Te’o didn’t go see her in the hospital when she was recovering from a car accident or battling leukemia because “it never crossed my mind” to do so.  Fifth, the ESPN.com article says that Te’o didn’t attend Kekua’s funeral because “her mom didn’t want me to come.”

Perhaps the strangest question arises from Te’o’s claim to Schaap that, as explained by Schaap on air, “[r]ight up until a few hours before the Deadspin story broke two days ago [Te’o] wasn’t quite sure what happened but at that time he got a phone call from Ronaiah Tuiasospo in which he admitted that he had perpetrated this hoax and in a series of communications also apologized for it.”  The notion that Te’o “wasn’t quite sure what happened” until “a few hours before” the story broke doesn’t mesh with the very clear picture painted Wednesday night by Swarbrick of extensive meetings and a private investigation with a comprehensive report, or with the reported plan by Te’o to go public with the hoax two days before the story broke.

The only conclusion that we draw from any of this is that it’s still too early to draw any conclusions.  Te’o’s uncle has raised a potential financial incentive via raising funds for leukemia victims hasn’t been explored and wasn’t even mentioned anywhere in the on-air or online ESPN reports.

If Tuiasosopo used the fake dead girlfriend as a way to raise money, with or without the knowledge or assistance of Te’o, the appropriate authorities should look into the situation.  Indeed, the request for checking account numbers could be enough to green light a criminal investigation.  A high-profile case like this one would, if any laws were broken, send a strong message of deterrence to anyone who is tempted to “catfish” not for sport, but for profit.

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Gary Kubiak on Trevor Siemian: I see a guy getting better

Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian (13) thaws as Los Angeles Rams defensive end Eugene Sims (97) pursues during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Joe Mahoney) AP

Broncos coach Gary Kubiak came into Saturday’s game with the intention of making his decision on a starting quarterback after his team faced the Rams and nothing’s changed after watching Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch against Los Angeles.

Kubiak said after the game that he’s “got enough going on that I can make a decision,” although he didn’t say how quickly he’d be sharing that decision publicly. Siemian has started the last two games, though, and Kubiak had a lot of nice things to say about the way he played on Saturday, including the way he followed an interception with a touchdown on the next possession.

“I’m impressed. I think he’s very calm,” Kubiak said, via ESPN.com. “I can tell by the way he handles the team in the huddle, he’s got control of what’s going on. Gets a bad break on the ‘go’ ball and comes right back and goes down the field. I think what I see is a guy getting better.”

Mark Sanchez didn’t play at all on Saturday, something that Kubiak said he spoke to the veteran about on Saturday morning and explained as having “a lot to go on on Mark” while wanting to see the younger quarterbacks. That may have turned out to be the problem for Sanchez as the preseason unfolded as there’s not the same sense that he’ll be getting better at this point in his career that one can get from Siemian and Lynch.

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Anquan Boldin on Kaepernick: Respect his opinion, even if you disagree

PITTSBURGH, PA - SEPTEMBER 20: Colin Kaepernick #7 and Anquan Boldin #81 of the San Francisco 49ers react following a failed fourth down conversion in the second half against the Pittsburgh Steelers during the game at Heinz Field on September 20, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images) Getty Images

Lions receiver Anquan Boldin is one of the NFL’s most respected veteran players and was chosen as the Walter Payton Man of the Year this year. Boldin also played with Colin Kaepernick for three years in San Francisco. So Boldin’s views on Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem may resonate with a lot of his fellow NFL players.

“I think a lot of people get bent out of shape about it,” Boldin said. “Even if you don’t agree with what someone does, you still have to respect their opinion and how they feel about something. You can agree or disagree with it but you still have to respect it. That’s the right that we have as Americans, and that’s the great part about being an American.”

Boldin does stand for the national anthem but thinks Kaepernick has the right to choose not to.

“I respect everybody’s opinion,” Boldin said. “Everybody has one. I’m sure he’s going to get flack for it, what he did, but that’s the great thing about being in America, you have that option.”

Although Kaepernick’s refusal to stand has been a controversial topic, other NFL players seem to be lining up behind Boldin, respecting Kaepernick’s right even if they disagree with his opinion.

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Siemian solid before giving way to Lynch

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 20:  Quarterback Trevor Siemian of the Denver Broncos throws as he warms up before a preseason NFL game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on August 20, 2016 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images) Getty Images

Trevor Siemian got his second straight start Saturday night in his bid to win the Broncos’ starting quarterback job.

Siemian led one touchdown drive, one field goal drive and threw an interception. A 43-yard pass from Siemian to Demaryius Thomas set up a field goal that gave the Broncos a 10-9 halftime lead over the Rams.

As expected, rookie first-round pick Paxton Lynch was next and replaced Siemian to start the second half.

Siemian was 10-of-17 passing for 122 yards. His touchdown drive covered 67 yards in seven plays and was capped by a 1-yard pass to tight end Victor Green.

Three straight Siemian completions jumpstarted the touchdown drive, and two C.J. Anderson runs set the Broncos up with a first and goal situation.

Mark Sanchez started the first preseason game, but Siemian — who’s never thrown a pass in a regular season game — has since taken the lead in the camp battle. The Broncos want to bring Lynch along slowly, so as of now it appears Siemian will start when the Broncos host the Panthers to open the season.

On the Broncos’ broadcast, General Manager John Elway said Siemian “got off to a slow start tonight but then had a good second quarter. It’s been a good battle…we’re in a good spot.”

Later, Elway said the team has “seen a lot of positives” from Lynch, who’s “getting better every day. We think the ceiling is really, really high.”

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Report: Mewhort has torn ACL, will miss season

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - SEPTEMBER 21: Calvin Pace #97 of the New York Jets rushes against Jack Mewhort #75 of the Indianapolis Colts in the fourth quarter at Lucas Oil Stadium on September 21, 2015 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

Colts guard Jack Mewhort suffered a torn ACL during Saturday night’s preseason game vs. the Eagles, NFL Network reported.

Mewhort will miss the entire 2016 season if further examination confirms a torn ACL and the Colts, already thin on the offensive line, will have to scramble to try to replace one of their better players.

A tackle during his Ohio State career, Mewhort has played both guard and tackle in each of his seasons with the Colts. The Colts hoped to end their offensive line shuffle this season and hoped Mewhort would both elevate his game and help rookie center Ryan Kelly.

Instead, they’re now searching for help at both cornerback and on the offensive line with the season opener two weeks away.

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Stork tweets that he’s excited to report to Redskins

Super Bowl XLIX - New England Patriots v Seattle Seahawks Getty Images

Bryan Stork is apparently going to officially be new Redskins center Bryan Stork fairly soon.

Stork tweeted Saturday night that he’s anxious to get the next chapter of his career started.

“I will forever have nothing but great memories at [the Patriots],” Stork tweeted. “Looking forward to making more [with the Redskins].”

The Patriots traded Stork to the Redskins this week. Stork had contemplated retirement, according to reports, and Redskins Coach Jay Gruden told reporters that Stork still had to make “a final decision.”

Stork started 11 games for the Patriots as a rookie in 2014 and six last season. He’s battled concussion issues, but the Redskins see him as a solid insurance policy after their longtime center, Kory Lichtensteiger, was limited to five games last season.

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Offenses sharp in Titans-Raiders game

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 20:  Marcus Mariota #8 of the Tennessee Titans stands under center during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 20, 2015 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

Preseason results don’t mean much and are usually quickly forgotten. In Oakland Saturday night, it’s fair to say the offenses beat the defenses.

The Titans got the ball first and scored immediately. A 60-yard pass from Marcus Mariota to rookie Tajae Sharpe set up a short touchdown run by DeMarco Murray. The Raiders came right back and scored on a 6-yard pass from Derek Carr to rookie DeAndre Washington.

Sharpe has been really good throughout camp and has probably won a spot in the opening day starting lineup.

Carr threw a 29-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper later in the first half, and Derrick Henry ran for another Titans touchdown. The Titans led 20-14 at halftime when Mariota was removed from the game. He was 9-of-16 for 170 yards and looked sharp commanding an offense that mixed in some option plays and plenty of rollout passes.

Veteran Andre Johnson caught three passes for 65 yards for the Titans. Cooper had three catches for 52 yards including the 29-yard touchdown.

Carr threw one pass in the second half before being removed from the game. He finished 12-of-18 for 169 yards.

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David Harris suffers shoulder injury

Denver Broncos v New York Jets Getty Images

Veteran Jets linebacker David Harris suffered a shoulder injury and has been declared out of Saturday night’s Jets-Giants preseason game.

Harris suffered the injury late in the first half. He probably wasn’t going to return to Saturday night’s game anyway, but he’s a key player in the Jets’ defense and the Jets hope he won’t miss any real time.

Harris, 32, is entering his 10th NFL season. He hasn’t missed a start since 2008.

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Mewhort leaves game with knee injury

Wild Card Playoffs - Cincinnati Bengals v Indianapolis Colts Getty Images

Colts guard Jack Mewhort suffered a knee injury in the second quarter of Saturday night’s preseason game vs. the Eagles. Mewhort is one of the Colts’ best offensive linemen, and if Mewhort suffered a significant injury it would be a significant blow to the Colts.

The Colts just don’t have much depth across their offensive line, a unit that struggled again vs. the Eagles. At halftime, Colts coach Chuck Pagano said his linemen had “to man up and block their guys.”

The team announced only that Mewhort would not return to Saturday’s game. Earlier in the game the Colts lost cornerback Darius Butler to an ankle injury, a further blow to another already thin position group.

A second-round pick in 2014, Mewhort has played both guard and tackle in each of his previous two NFL seasons.

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Forte gets involved quickly in Jets debut

New York Giants' Olivier Vernon (54) tackles New York Jets' Matt Forte (22) during the first half of an NFL preseason football game Saturday, Aug. 27, 2016, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Bill Kostroun) AP

The Jets were patient with running back Matt Forte over the last several weeks. But when Forte made his preseason debut in Saturday night’s game vs. the Giants, the Jets kept Forte busy.

Forte got five touches on the game’s first drive, three by run and two on receptions from quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Jets lined up Forte in the backfield and also as a slot receiver to both sides in different personnel groupings.

He played 11 of 20 snaps in the first quarter and touched the ball on eight of those 11. He ended up carrying 10 times for 28 yards and catching two passes for nine yards before being taken out of the game in the second quarter.

Forte, 30, figures to be the team’s starting running back and a key contributor. He only missed eight games in eight seasons with the Bears, but the Jets know he has some mileage and obviously want to keep him fresh and on the field. A hamstring injury suffered just before camp sidelined Forte, and he’s been eased back into practices over the last two weeks.

Veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall was held out of the game, so the Jets still have not played with their whole complement of offensive weapons this preseason.

The Jets led 7-0 at halftime with the only score coming on a Fitzpatrick touchdown pass to Eric Decker. The Giants managed just 47 yards of offense in the first half.

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Leon Hall suffers concussion

Dre Kirkpatrick, Leon Hall AP

Veteran Giants cornerback Leon Hall suffered a concussion during the first quarter of Saturday night’s Jets-Giants preseason game.

Hall signed with the Giants earlier this month. He previously played exclusively for the Bengals, who drafted him in the first round in 2007.

The Giants also announced that rookie linebacker B.J. Goodson was being evaluated for a concussion.

The Jets scored first on a Ryan Fitzpatrick to Eric Decker touchdown pass with 5:20 left in the second quarter. A Darrelle Revis interception set up the 30-yard scoring drive.

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Miserable first half for Luck, Colts

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - AUGUST 07:  quarterback Andrew Luck #12 of the Indianapolis Colts speaks with head coach Chuck Pagano prior to a preseason game against the New York Jets at MetLife Stadium on August 7, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Andrew Luck; Chuck Pagano Getty Images

The Colts got shoved around in the first half of Saturday night’s preseason game by the Eagles, who took a 17-3 lead into halftime.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck completed 13-of-18 passes for 134 yards but was sacked three times. The Colts were able to move the ball but couldn’t sustain drives and scored only in a short-field situation, settling for three points after a Darius Butler interception.

“We didn’t do the job we should have done protecting our quarterback,” Colts coach Chuck Pagano said on the team’s preseason broadcast. “Guys have to man up and block their guys.”

The Colts ran the ball nine times for just 13 yards. The Eagles scored on a Josh Huff run and a Sam Bradford fade to Dorial Green-Beckham, who’s playing his first game for the Eagles after being acquired in a trade with the Titans.

The Colts also didn’t score a touchdown with Luck and the starters in last week’s preseason game vs. the Ravens.

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Rams announce Tavon Austin extension

ST. LOUIS, MO - DECEMBER 17: Tavon Austin #11 of the St. Louis Rams adjusts his helmet prior to a game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the Edward Jones Dome on December 17, 2015 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images) Getty Images

With the Tavon Austin extension official, a debate already has begun regarding whether the Rams are paying the 2013 first-rounder too much.

“Tavon has been an integral part of our offense and special teams since we drafted him in 2013,” coach Jeff Fisher said in the press release announcing the deal. “It is important to our organization to retain players we’ve drafted and invested in, and Tavon is an example of that. We’re excited for him to continue his career with the Rams.

The release points out that Austin and running back Todd Gurley each had 10 touchdowns last year, the first time two members of the Rams have landed in double digits since running back Steven Jackson and receiver Torry Holt in 2006. Austin has 19 touchdowns for his career: nine receiving, seven rushing, and three on punt returns.

The release doesn’t mention Austin’s other stats, possibly because it’s harder to justify a four-year, $42 million extension by pointing to them. He had 473 receiving yards in 2015, 242 in 2014, and 418 in 2013, along with rushing yards of 434 in 2015, 224 in 2014, and 151 in 2013.

That’s an average of 377 receiving yards per season and 269 rushing yards per season. Throwing in 313 average punt-return yards and 144 average kickoff-return yards, Austin has averaged 1,103 all-purpose yards per year in his career. Still, he has only 646 yards from scrimmage each year, on average.

Does that add up to a four-year, $42 million contact? Maybe not, based on the raw numbers. But considering that Austin hasn’t had much help — and that he definitely hasn’t had high-quality quarterback play — the Rams apparently think that the best days are coming for Austin, and that getting him for $10.5 million per year in new money is a lot cheaper than what it would have cost in 2018.

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Another Colts cornerback suffers injury

Darius Butler, Greg Toler AP

Colts cornerback Darius Butler intercepted Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford on the first Eagles possession of Saturday night’s preseason game.

By the second drive, Butler was out with an ankle injury.

Two weeks from the season opener, it’s bad timing for Butler and worse for the Colts. They’re already without starting cornerback Vontae Davis until at least October, and fellow starter Patrick Robinson has been dealing with a groin injury. Butler was one of just four Colts cornerbacks who suited up for Saturday night’s preseason game.

The team announced that Butler is done for the game. There likely won’t be another update on his status until at least later tonight.

Earlier this week, Colts coach Chuck Pagano called his team’s cornerback situation “scary.” The Colts signed veteran cornerback Antonio Cromartie this week but he didn’t play vs. the Eagles.

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Ravens lose Ben Watson for season

Ben Watson AP

Veteran Ravens tight end Ben Watson suffered a torn Achilles tendon on the first play of the Ravens-Lions preseason game Saturday night and will miss the 2016 season.

The Ravens signed Watson in March. He played the last three seasons with the Saints and had a career-best 74 receptions last season.

The team announced the injury not long after Watson was taken to the locker room.

Watson, 35, is a veteran of 12 NFL seasons. He’s also played for the Browns and Patriots, who drafted him with the final pick of the first round in 2004.

The Ravens had hoped Watson would catch a bunch of passes once he developed chemistry with quarterback Joe Flacco, who made his preseason debut Saturday night. Flacco is recovering from a torn ACL.

Though Watson was the most experienced and durable tight end on the roster — Watson only missed one game the last four seasons — the Ravens are deep at the position with Crockett Gillmore, Dennis Pitta and Maxx Williams.

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Kelly: Kaepernick’s choice to remain seated doesn’t affect football matters

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick passes warms up for the team's preseason NFL football game against the Denver Broncos, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey) AP

49ers coach Chip Kelly told reporters Saturday that quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s decision not to stand for the national anthem does not affect Kaepernick’s place on the depth chart or any other football matters.

Kelly said Kaepernick, who started Friday night’s preseason game, remains in competition with Blaine Gabbert for the team’s starting quarterback job.

Kelly knew questions about Kaepernick were coming when he talked with reporters Saturday. Earlier in the day, Kaepernick told NFL Network he is “not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color.”

If Kaepernick wants to continue to not stand for the anthem, Kelly won’t try to change his mind.

It’s not my right to tell him not to do something,” Kelly said.

Kaepernick also didn’t stand for the anthem during prior preseason games, and Kelly said “he has the right to express his feelings.”

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