It’s essentially a Te’obargo, and the Chargers now admit they won’t be making their second-round pick available to the media at all until the middle of June.
So why are they not letting Te’o talk? Chargers director of public relations Bill Johnston addressed the situation today on XTRA Sports 1360 in San Diego.
“Right now, anything that he does . . . makes news,” Johnston said. “Right now, the news that people are talking about with him is really not the news that we want him to be talking about. Really, he’s a rookie, he’s a second-round draft pick, yet everybody wants to talk to him. Well, why? Well, it all goes back to that stuff that happened back in the winter, and back when he was at Notre Dame.
“To us, that’s not what we want him talking about. We want him focused on becoming a Charger, on becoming a better player. Learning our system. Getting comfortable here. We want him talking football, talking Chargers, and that’s all we want him focused on right now. So we’re doing what we think is in his best interests to stay focused and become the best player he can.”
That really doesn’t make much sense, frankly. Media availability inherently is a distraction, regardless of the topics addressed. Any time spent talking to the media takes away from Te’o's effort to become a better player and learn the system.
Moreover, the furor regarding the Lennay Kukua nonsense largely has subsided. It wasn’t, for example, much of an issue during the first session between Te’o and the media on May 10, in connection with the team’s rookie minicamp.
Of course, the controversy can remain relevant if Te’o does things to keep it relevant. For example, he chose to attend the Maxim party honoring a list of women that included the non-existent Kukua. Under the circumstances, it’s fair game to ask him why he did it.
It’s not fair game for the Chargers to protect him, or anyone other player simply because the team wants him to talk about certain subjects and not others. Watch the video from the May 10 session; the kid can handle himself well. Besides, they picked him knowing what having him on the team would entail. It’s short-sighted to treat him differently than every other player.
Think of the message that sends this to the locker room, at a time when he’d love nothing more than to simply be one of the guys. He’s necessarily not one of the guys, because the team is giving him different treatment than the rest of his teammates.
Meanwhile, the team is making the issue even bigger than it should be, giving Te’o yet another topic to address when he finally talks to the media and making it harder for him to lay the foundation for a positive relationship with the folks who buy ink by the truckload.
While it’s hard for any organization to reverse a decision that has been made and implemented, the best move for the Chargers would be to treat Te’o no differently than any other player — and to hope that the media eventually will do the same thing.