Enough time has passed that Chargers linebacker Manti Te’o is no longer necessarily a punch line.
He’s also turned enough pages on the calendar that he doesn’t always look like a rookie.
The second-rounder from Notre Dame is beginning to show signs that he’s developing into an NFL linebacker, after a slow start to his career.
“I’ve made that big jump,” Te’o said, via Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego. “I still have to think about what I have to do; I still have to think a little bit. But I’m not thinking half as much as I was. There’s where it becomes fun, and that’s where you’re able to make plays. A lot of guys, it takes a while. It takes a while as a rookie. . . .
“Now, it’s about refining things and remembering the small details. As far as the big picture, I think I have the understanding of what it looks like now. That’s kind of why I’ve been able to have a little more success now on the field, just that comfort level and trust in my teammates that they have for me and the trust that my coaches have for me.”
The biggest obstacle he had to overcome was the first one, a foot injury nine snaps into his first preseason game. That cost him the next six weeks of practice, and set him behind.
“He missed so much time in training camp — he missed all those reps; he didn’t have that,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “So when he first got back, playing at the early part of the season, that was his training camp. He’s made some mistakes, and he’ll tell you that. It’s that learning curve. With young players, there’s a lot to learn. He’s done a nice job. He’s getting better every week, and that’s the key.”
Te’o has shown that he’s willing to work through specific problems, and has become a solid player for the Chargers.
As he grows into his role, they hope he becomes more than that.