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Full transcript of Manti Te’o interview

Manti Te'o AP

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o made a 15-minute appearance in the media room at NFL Scouting Combine Saturday. Here’s the full transcript of his comments:

Te’o (taking the stage and laughing): “That’s a lot of cameras.”

Q: How are you feeling?

Te’o: “ I’m kind of tired right now. A long day, medical exams. It’s all part of the process.”

Q: Are you tired of answering all the questions about the (fake dead girlfriend) incident?

“Yeah, about the incident, I’ve said all I need to say about that. How I’m handling it going forward is doing what I’m doing, focusing on the moment, focusing on football and the combine. Not everybody gets this opportunity to be here. I’m sure there’s

thousands and thousands of people who would like to be here in Indianapolis. Just trying to enjoy the moment.”

Q: How much have you been asked about it by NFL teams?

Te’o: “Quite a few teams asked me about it. Some go to certain lengths, some just ask me, ‘Just give me a brief overview of how it was’ then they get straight to business.”

Q: Why didn’t you play well in the national championship game?

“That’s because I didn’t. That’s all on me. I played hard and so did my team, but Alabama had a great game plan and so did we. They executed better than we did.”

Q: Was the other situation a distraction to you leading up to that game?

Te’o: “No.”

Q: Any teams not ask you about it?

Te’o: “No (laughs). They all ask me about it.”

Q: What are they asking you?

Te’o: “Just tell me the facts. They want to hear it from me. Just tell them basically what happened.”

Q: Do you think it might hurt you?

Te’o: “That I don’t know. That I don’t know.”

Q: Could you summarize the facts?

Te’o: “Just I care for somebody and that’s what I was taught to do. Ever since I was young if somebody needs help you help them out. Unfortunately it didn’t end up the way I thought it would.”

Q: Why wait so long to say something?

Te’o: “It was just a whirlwind of stuff. A 22-year-old, 21-year old at that time, just trying to get your thoughts right. Everybody was just kind of chaos for a little bit, so you let that chaos die down and wait until everybody’s ready to listen.”

Q: Do you understand people might doubt your version of events because it took you so long?

Te’o: “That I don’t know, people doubting because I took a while to come out. From our point of view we wanted everything to come out first and then have my side come out. The way we did I felt worked best for me. I’m very grateful for those who helped me to get through that time. I felt it went as smoothly as it could.”

Q: Have you gotten a sense from NFL people it might affect you in draft?

Te’o: “No, not really. They’ve told me that, . . . they’ve wanted to hear it from me what the truth was. They haven’t really said anything about it affecting me.

“Some guys just talk briefly for 30 seconds and the next 14 minutes is all plays and getting down to business. That’s how I prefer it to be.”

Q: Do you worry how you’ll be treated in the locker room, trouble assuming a leadership role?

Te’o: “No. I think I’ve learned the difference between the things I can control and the things I can’t control. And hopefully by doing the things I can control well I’ll have more favor in the other category. Whatever team I go to, I’m just going to be me, I’m going to work hard, I’m going to do my best to help the team win. And whatever happens happens.”

Q: Can you believe the fascination like this?

Te’o: “It’s pretty crazy. I’ve been in front of a few cameras, but not as many as this.”

Q: “What about when it came out, every news channel, lead story. You surprised?”

Te’o: “I was. It got overwhelming at times. The hardest part and I’ve said was just to see, not necessarily my first name, but my last name. Everybody here, you treasure your last name. That’s what you hold dear. That’s something that when you pass on, the only thing that stays with you, stays here is your last name. To see your last name everywhere and know I represented my family and all my cousins and aunties and uncles, . . .

Q: Are you prepared to deal with this for the next couple years?

Te’o: “Oh, yeah. For me, I hopefully I’m just looking forward to getting straight to football. I understand people have questions, but I’ve answered everything I could. For me I’d really like to talk about football.”

Q: Had you planned to go to the Senior Bowl, did this change your mind?

Te’o: “No. I didn’t get that far. I was still worrying about the national championship. I didn’t get that far.”

Q: Who are some of the teams you’ve met with?

Te’o: “I’ve met with the Texans and I met with the Packers.”

Q: Why didn’t you attempt to go see a girl you cared so much about?

Te’o: “I did. We made plans, obviously it didn’t work out.”

Q: How many more teams do you expect to talk to and which ones?

Te’o: “I don’t know, I’m not sure. I know I’ll be meeting formally with 18 more teams. I don’t know specifically who they are. I’ll find out soon. I’m meeting with 20 total.”

Q: What are you telling teams you bring to the table as a player?

Te’o: “I think what I bring to the table is a lot of heart, a lot of energy and somebody that works hard. Somebody who hates to lose. I always say, ‘I hate losing more than I love to win.’ The reason why I love to win is because I don’t have to go through that feeling of losing. It’s those times where I lose that feeling that will stick with me. For teams I tell them, ‘You’ll always get somebody who’s humble, works hard, doesn’t say much and will do everything it takes to win.’”

Q: Have any lingering regret over all this?

Te’o: “I could have done some things different, obviously, done a lot of things different to avoid all this stuff. But throughout my experience my senior year, I wouldn’t do anything different.”

Q: Has this been embarrassing?

Te’o: “Oh, definitely. For anybody to go through, it’s definitely embarrassing. 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. You know it’s only going to make me stronger and it definitely has.”

Q: Have you gotten past the point of being embarrassed about it?

Te’o: “Oh, definitely. It definitely has gone. Obviously I’m here. If I was still embarrassed I wouldn’t be standing in front of you.”

Q: Can you understand what NFL teams are trying to get at?

Te’o: “Yeah, they want to be able to trust their player. You don’t want to invest in somebody you can’t trust. With everybody here, they’re just trying to get to know you, get to know you as a person and as a football player. I understand where they’re coming from.”

Q: Does that make you feel you’ve got a hurdle to overcome in the honesty department?

Te’o: “It could be a hurdle, but it could also be a great opportunity to show who you really are. That’s the way I’ve approached it and it’s been a great growing experience for me.”

Q: Ravens have been mentioned a lot as a destination for you. How much would you like to follow Ray Lewis?

Te’o: “Aw, definitely, whatever team I go to, but definitely the Ravens. Ray Lewis, I’ve grown up watching Ray Lewis. Just watching his intensity, his passion for the game, his love for the game, his work ethic. Everything in a linebacker that you want to be is in Ray Lewis, from leadership qualities, all that. He’ll be definitely missed in Baltimore and in the NFL as a whole.

“If I get to go to Baltimore, it will definitely be some big shoes to fill, but an opportunity I’ll be honored to have.”

Q: What’s different about you now?

Te’o: “For me I’ve learned just to be honest in anything and everything you do, from the big things to the small things. Secondly, to keep your circle very small and to understand who’s really in your corner and who’s not. I think going off of the season my team and I had, there’s a lot of people in our corner. Then when Jan. 16 happened, there’s a lot of people in the other corner. I just learned to appreciate the people that I have that are with me and to just make sure you always try to turn a negative thing into a positive.”

Q: What’s been the toughest moment since all this came out?

Te’o: “I think the toughest moment, to be honest with you, was a phone call that I got from my sister where she told me that they had to sneak my own family in their home because there were people parked out in the yard and stuff like that. That had to be the hardest part.

“And for me, something that I’ve always had a problem with is when I can’t do something about it; I can’t help. To know that my family was in this situation because of the actions I committed was definitely the hardest part for me.”

Q: As a player what kind of challenges can you anticipate at the next level?

Te’o: “The game gets even faster, a lot more complex. What I have to do as a player is I have to remember why I’m playing this game. It’s the same game I played when I was a little kid on the streets, same thing, football’s still the same shape. Obviously people are going to be professionals. This is where the best play. But as long as I don’t stray too far from who I am and what I believe in, I think the journey will be worth it.”

Q: Players have been arrested, had drug issues, does it bother you that you’re under the same scrutiny as guys who have been in jail?

Te’o: “Everybody makes mistakes and one of the positive things about what I went through is I’ve learned to empathize with those who are going through the same thing. Those who are going through some hard times, who are getting attention that they don’t necessarily want. It just taught me to always give somebody the benefit of the doubt and say, ‘You never know, you never know what’s going on with a person.’”

Q: What about the difference between situations?

Te’o: “That’s something I don’t believe I can comment on.”

Q: Did you consider legal action against Ronaiah Tuisasosopo?

Te’o: “I think that’s the worst thing you could do. 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 and he went through his own share of stuff.

“I think that’s the worst thing for me to do is to do that. Always try and forgive. If you forgive, you’ll get the majority of the blessings. I always try to forgive and it’s definitely benefited me.”

Q: Are you dating anybody in real life?

Te’o: “No, not right now.”

Q: When your sister called about sneaking parents in, what was your emotion?

Te’o: “Just why? It should never get that way. As people we have to realize that we’re all people, somebody is somebody’s son, somebody is somebody’s daughter. And I try to picture it that way. Would you want somebody doing that to your son? Would you want somebody doing that to your daughter? If not, why do it? Through this whole experience I’ve learned that.

“Since I’ve experienced it, the things I see, the things I do, I try to always think ‘That’s somebody/s son. That’s somebody’s daughter. That’s somebody’s mom, dad. Whatever I do try to base what I do off of that.”

Te’o: “In closing, I’d like to thank everybody for being here. It’s been a hard but tremendous ride for me and my family and the University of Notre Dame. I’d like to thank my parents, my family, my friends, the University of Notre Dame and everybody who supports me. I couldn’t do it without all of you.

“Hopefully after this I answered the things I needed to answer and we can move on with football. So thank you, everybody.”

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Sparano says they need to let players do what they do best

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The press conference announcing the firing of a head coach and the promotion of a guy the fired coach had hired to serve as an assistant always entails some tightrope-walking by the new coach, who needs to express regret that his boss is gone while also expressing enthusiasm and preparation to embrace the challenge for cleaning up the mess that the new coach helped create.

On Tuesday, new Raiders interim coach Tony Sparano offered a clue as to how his approach may differ from Dennis Allen’s.

“We’ve got a lot of good players here,” Sparano said.  “We need to let them do what they do best.”

Assuming for the sake of argument that the Raiders have a lot of good players (quit laughing, Broncos, Chiefs, and Chargers fans), Sparano’s comment could be interpreted as a disclosure that, under Allen, players were expected to fit the schemes.  By saying that the Raiders need to let the players do what they do best, Sparano could be saying that he’ll design plays and concepts based on the strengths and weaknesses of the players.

This assumes that the players have enough strengths (and sufficiently few weaknesses) for that to matter.

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LaMichael James lands in Miami

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Running back LaMichael James appeared to be on his way out of San Francisco for much of the offseason, but the team wound up keeping him on their roster to start the regular season.

It was a brief stay, however. James was dropped after the first week of the regular season and has been looking for work since then. One spot he looked was Miami, where he worked out for the Dolphins a couple of weeks ago.

Nothing happened at the time, but it seems James did make a positive impression on the team. James’s agent Jeff Sperbeck announced on Twitter Tuesday that his client has signed with the Dolphins.

The Dolphins haven’t announced anything yet and they are on their bye week, so it may be a while before we find out what kind of role they have in mind for the former 49er. Knowshon Moreno isn’t thought to be far off from rejoining Lamar Miller in the backfield, so a role as a returner might be part of the plan for James in South Florida.

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Raiders coach Tony Sparano “very excited about where we’re going”

tonysparano AP

New Raiders interim head coach Tony Sparano says he believes he can turn the team in the right direction after an 0-4 start led to the dismissal of former coach Dennis Allen.

“I’m excited,” Sparano said at his introductory press conference. “Very excited about where we’re going right now, what we’re trying to do.”

Sparano praised Allen as an “outstanding football coach” and said it was tough to see the man who was his boss until yesterday lose his job.

“This is obviously a bittersweet moment for me right now in that a great friend of mine and a person I respect a great deal in Dennis Allen was let go,” he said. “That’s unfortunately part of our business but this is the situation we’re in right now.”

Raiders General Manager Reggie McKenzie also spoke highly of Allen but said the move had to be made.

“I had a good talk with Dennis,” he said. “I just want to say that I appreciate everything he’s done. He worked hard, very diligent, but I had to make the move and I did that yesterday. Moving forward, I’m excited to bring before you a new interim head coach, Tony Sparano. I’m excited about the experience he brings, the leadership he brings, the passion he brings to get this organization, the Raider organization, to what we need to do, and that’s win.”

The Raiders haven’t won at all this season and haven’t won consistently since the Jon Gruden days. Unless Sparano can oversee a miraculous turnaround, fans may be clamoring for a return of Gruden after Sparano coaches out the last 12 games of 2014.

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More support for Harbaugh from 49ers locker room

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Deion Sanders says 49ers players want coach Jim Harbaugh to go.  Harbaugh says it’s a bunch of crap.  The jurors (i.e., the players) are beginning to chime, and the early verdict is . . . .

Crap.

He’s the best coach I’ve ever been around,” tackle Jonathan Martin said, via the San Jose Mercury News.  “Even though he might be cheesy at times with slogans and sayings, his enthusiasm rubs off on players.  And his record speaks for itself.”

Of course, Martin would be likely to say that, since Harbaugh coached Martin at Stanford and helped resurrect Martin’s pro career after he decided to walk out on the Dolphins as the result of intense bullying in 2013.  But Martin, who said he has seen no evidence of discord, wasn’t alone.

“Everything’s great,” linebacker NaVorro Bowman said. “I mean, we play, he coach. We can’t really control anything else.”

(It’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, but it’s also no evidence that players want Harbaugh gone.)

Ditto from punter Andy Lee: “I don’t see that anywhere in this locker room.  From my point of view, everything is normal.”

And from linebacker Michael Wilhoite: “His attitude is the attitude we take. That toughness, that grind, that grit — it’s been bred in us since I first got here. It was known we were going to be tough. It was known we were going to have a callous that we had built up. It was known that we were very physical, we ran the ball, we stopped the run, we played good football and we were disciplined.”

So maybe Deion is simply wrong.  Or maybe there’s a small pocket of malcontents who won’t complain about Harbaugh on the record.

Or maybe Deion is playing a psychological game with one of the various teams for which he once played, like Tom Jackson once claimed he did when picking the Jets to lose to the Patriots in the playoffs.

Regardless, Deion’s “report” that the players don’t like their coach seems to be galvanizing the 49ers.  Maybe in February Harbaugh will snub Deion after winning the Super Bowl like Bill Belichick once did with Jackson, who had proclaimed in September that the Patriots players “hate their coach.”

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Jadeveon Clowney thinks he’ll be back in a few weeks

Jadeveon Clowney AP

The Texans are 3-1 even though they’ve only had rookie linebacker Jadeveon Clowney in the lineup for the first half of the first game of the season and the first overall pick in this year’s draft said it has been “very tough” to be on the sideline for the last three weeks.

Clowney is recovering from surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his knee, a procedure that left him with a four-to-six week timetable for his return to the lineup. We’re closing in on the front end of that projection, but Clowney said Tuesday that it will still be a bit more time before he thinks he’ll be ready for a return to action.

“Everything is starting to come along just like I want it to. … I think I’ll be back in a few weeks — that’s the goal,” Clowney said, via the Houston Chronicle. “Right now I’m just taking it day by day, just trying to get back healthy. Rehab is coming along good. My leg feels a lot better. I’m just taking it a day at a time right now.”

J.J. Watt’s weekly feats of strength have made it easier to forget that Clowney is supposed to be on the field causing more havoc for opposing offenses. If he can get back without too much rust accumulating on his game and the Texans can keep winning in his absence, Clowney’s return could be a big factor in how the AFC South race plays out this season.

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Teddy Bridgewater held out of Vikings practice again

Bridgewater Getty Images

The Vikings have sounded optimistic, and they’ve sounded cautious.

The Packers are just assuming.

But those are subjective measures.

In the cold, calculating world of the NFL injury report, the news is quantifiable.

Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater did not participate in practice today, according to the Vikings’ report submitted to the league. Linebacker Chad Greenway and tight end Kyle Rudolph didn’t either, but that’s not what you’re here to read about.

With just one more day between doing nothing and playing the Packers Thursday night, the chances of Bridgewater playing might not appear great. But that’s part of the reaility of short-week games anyway.

If he can’t go, the Vikings would have to start Christian Ponder, and promote one of their practice squaders so they’d have a viable backup.

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Belichick bears the blame for current Patriots’ mess

Belichick Getty Images

When reporters asked Patriots coach Bill Belichick about a burgeoning quarterback controversy, he shouldn’t have scoffed.  He should have been grateful.

The focus on Tom Brady has kept many from looking at the guy squarely responsible for the current state of the team — Belichick himself.

The head coach and de facto G.M. has been heralded as a genius for much of the last 13 years, and rightfully so.  Belichick has found a way to keep the team competitive on a consistent basis in an age of parity and a salary cap.

But the quality of the roster has eroded in recent years.  The offensive line presently stinks.  While the departure of long-time line coach Dante Scarnecchia likely played a role in the ability of the line to play its role the right way, the players aren’t good.  Which makes the decision to dump guard Logan Mankins after he refused to take a pay cut even more bizarre.  Belichick miscalculated the ability of the line to thrive without Mankins, and as a result the Patriots could miss the postseason for the first time since 2008.

No one can question Belichick’s coaching ability.  But when it comes to handling the personnel side of the operation, he’s either losing his fastball or he needs more help.  Because it’s not enough to find ways to trade down or to draft backup quarterbacks lower than perhaps they should have gone.  At some point, the players need to be good enough to play.

Right now, they’re not.  And that lands at the feet of the guy who runs the show.

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Texans part ways with Shiloh Keo

Chris Johnson, Shiloh Keo AP

The Texans have made a change at safety.

According to multiple reports, the team has waived safety Shiloh Keo and promoted Josh Aubrey to the 53-man roster.

Keo was a 2011 fifth-round pick in Houston who saw action in every game for the team in 2012 and 2013. He spent much of the 2013 season as a starter after the team’s move for Ed Reed failed to pan out, but did little to suggest that he has a future in the league as a first-team defensive player. Keo had 63 tackles and an interception last year, but saw most of his other work on special teams and that’s probably where any NFL future lies as well.

Aubrey had one tackle in six games with the Browns last year. He didn’t make the team out of camp this year and spent a brief spell with the Seahawks before landing on Cleveland’s practice squad.

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McKenzie announces that Allen has been fired

McKenzie AP

It’s not entirely Dennis Allen’s fault that the Raiders stink.  And so it was fitting that the guy who shares in the blame for the current state of the team made the official announcement that Allen has taken the fall for the team’s predictable 0-4 start.

“After thorough evaluation, we have determined to move in another direction,” G.M. Reggie McKenzie said in a statement released by the team.  “We appreciate Dennis Allen’s dedication to the organization and wish him and his family nothing but the best in the future.”

The different direction, at least for now, will be offensive coordinator Tony Sparano, who took the Dolphins to a 29-33 record over four years before being fired after the 2011 season.  It’s hard to imagine the outcome being any different with Sparano than with Allen, given the lack of talent and other issues with the franchise.

But Sparano will have a far more extended opportunity to earn the job on an ongoing basis, given that 12 games remain on the schedule.  That’s actually better for the Raiders; it makes an artificial improvement in performance from players who prefer to keep the current staff less likely.  Far too often, the interim coach has success in the last 2-3 games of the year, secures the job, and then the wheels come off.

The Raiders have scheduled a press conference for 5:00 p.m. ET.  Even though the press release didn’t include any quotes from owner Mark Davis, he presumably will be there.  There’s even a slim chance we’ll see an overhead projector.

That last part is a joke.  I think.  It nevertheless will be interesting to see whether Mark Davis continues his father’s habit of trying to find ways to stiff fired coaches out of the balance of their remaining salary.

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John Conner returns to Jets

Buffalo Bills v New York Jets Getty Images

In The Terminator, it was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s robot from the future who said “I’ll be back” while trying to stop Sarah Connor from becoming the mother of mankind’s future savior John Connor.

We’re not sure if fullback John Conner, dubbed “The Terminator” by Rex Ryan when the Jets drafted him in 2010, said the same thing when the Jets released him in 2012, but he made good on the promise if he did. The Jets announced Tuesday that Conner is back with the club.

He’ll take the spot of fullback Tommy Bohanon, who broke his collarbone against the Lions. Bohanon suffered the injury early in the game, but, in a move any time traveling cyborg could appreciate, was able to remain on the field for the duration of the contest.

Conner played 13 games for the Giants last season, but lost a training camp battle to Henry Hynoski this summer and has been unemployed since the Giants dropped him as part of their cut to 53 players.

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West says Browns will go with the “hot hand” at running back

West Getty Images

Veteran tailback Ben Tate suffered a knee injury in Week One.  Terrance West and Isaiah Crowell performed well in his absence.  Now that he’s back, will there be enough touches to go around?

“We’ll see,” Tate told reporters on Tuesday, via comments distributed by the team.

As to who’ll get the carries, the answer is less unclear.

“Whoever’s got the hot hand and whoever’s going to get us the win, that’s who we’re going to roll with,” West said.

That’s a far cry from Tate’s assessment before the season that he’s the starter and there’s no competition.

“I probably would have said the same thing,” West said.  “Everybody should have that personality coming onto the field. If you’re on the field, you should think you’re the best. If you don’t you shouldn’t be out there.”

West has emerged as the top option for the Browns, with 47 carries for 204 yards and two touchdowns.  Crowell has 27 attempts for 141 yards and three scores.

Tate exited the Week One loss to the Steelers with only six carries for 41 yards.

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Jordan Cameron feeling better, but thinks shoulder will be issue all year

Cleveland Browns v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

The bye week has done some good for Browns tight end Jordan Cameron.

Cameron said Tuesday that the sprained AC joint in his right shoulder is feeling better than it did heading into the bye week.

“I feel good. I feel healthy,” Cameron said, via Nate Ulrich of the Akron Beacon Journal.

There’s room for an asterisk next to Cameron feeling healthy, though. He also said that he thinks the injury, which he initially suffered in the preseason and aggravated in the season opener, is going to linger throughout the season. That’s not great news for the Browns offense, which still has a while to go before wide receiver Josh Gordon will return to the lineup.

It’s also not great news for Cameron, who is eligible for free agency after the season. Cameron has already missed one game because of the injury and had just one catch in Week Three, a pattern that would likely have a deflating effect on any contract offers that will come his way if it were to continue for the remaining 13 weeks of the regular season.

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Trent Williams hopes to play on Monday night

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The Redskins played last Thursday night and lost to the Giants in a rout that was made all the worse by the departure of left tackle Trent Williams with a knee injury.

Any initial fears of a season-ending injury subsided on Friday, but his presence in Week Five is still anything but certain. Williams didn’t practice on Tuesday and said that his knee still needed to “calm down,” but he remains hopeful that he’ll be able to play on Monday night against the Seahawks.

“I’ll probably let it calm down a little bit,” Williams said, via CSNWashington.com. “Hopefully no setback. I’ll probably get it reevaluated before the game and hopefully — I’ll leave it up to coach — but hopefully I can be out there.”

Williams may have company when it comes to returning from a recent injury. Tight end Jordan Reed participated in individual drills on Tuesday, which marks a notable step forward in his recovery from a hamstring injury suffered in the season opener. Getting Reed back would be a plus for the offense, especially if Niles Paul can’t go because of the concussion he suffered against the Giants.

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Falcons make a flurry of moves to refill their offensive line

Atlanta Falcons v Cincinnati Bengals Getty Images

Well, at least Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan has healthy receivers this year.

Offensive linemen, not so much.

The Falcons just announced a flurry of moves, which included putting two more starting offensive linemen on injured reserve.

They announced that center Joe Hawley (knee) and right tackle Lamar Holmes (foot) were going on IR, where they’ll join left tackle Sam Baker (knee).

They also placed safety William Moore (shoulder) on IR/designated for return, which will allow him to come back after eight weeks.

To fill the roster spots, the Falcons promoted guard Harland Gunn and safety Sean Baker from the practice squad, and signed former Jaguars tackle Cameron Bradfield.

That’s going to make a real hash of their offensive line, but no worse than it was Sunday, when they had to use tight end Levine Toilolo as their right tackle to finish the game when injuries collected at one spot.

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Mike Tomlin doesn’t mind label, he minds lazy sterotypes

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Two days after Mike Tomlin bristled at being termed a “player’s coach,” during a pregame interview, he said he mostly bristles at the broad characterization it creates.

Tomlin told reporters Tuesday that he doesn’t necessarily take it as an insult, but that he’s insulted by the undertones the phrase carries.

I refuse to be put in a box. It’s my job to be what my team needs me to be,” Tomlin said, via Scott Brown of ESPN.com. “Sometimes it’s close and cuddly and sometimes it’s not. I don’t have any problem being any of the above.

“Sometimes when they couple ‘player’s coach’ with questions about how I wear my hair or what I choose to wear on the sidelines or what type of music I listen to, then it gets kind of old and falls into that category for me. I’d like to think the manner in which I do my job, whether it’s positive or negative, has very little to do with my haircut or the clothes that I wear or the type of music I listen to, and that’s when I get annoyed with that line of questioning.”

Tomlin’s got a point, and it’s no different than the way players are characterized.

Panthers quarterback Cam Newton got compared to players such as Michael Vick or Donovan McNabb before being drafted, even though he played more like Ben Roethlisberger.

Certain players are tagged as “athletic” and “instinctive” and certain players are “lunch pail guys” or “coaches on the field.”

And too often in the lazy telling of stories, those phrases fall along strict lines that just happen to coincide with the color of the players’ skin.

To that end, we agree with Tomlin. He’s not necessarily a player’s coach, any more than Dick LeBeau is.

He’s just a good one.

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