Manti Te’o ready to make the most of fresh start in New Orleans

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Manti Te'o says he’s past the whole fake-dead-girlfriend thing.

And the torn Achilles that ended last season. And San Diego.

The Saints linebacker told Mike Triplett of ESPN.com that he was enjoying his fresh start in a new city, and finally putting some of his awkward past behind him.

“You know, that was something that I had to get over. And it lingered for years,” Te’o said of the story that made him a national curiosity if not punch line. “And that was why Year 4 in the NFL was such a big year, because it was the first year that I felt that I was free. And I felt great. And I was just playing the way I wanted to play. And then another adverse situation came along.

“And I think a lot of people look at adversity and they shy away from it or they look at it as a thing that’s too hard. But I’ve learned through all my times of adversity that it makes me and molds me into the man that I need to be. And I’m grateful for it. Because without it, I wouldn’t be as appreciative of the things that I do have now. I was appreciative — I thought I was. Everybody thinks they are until it’s gone. Then you really learn to appreciate it.”

Te’o was a solid if not spectacular player for the Chargers, but with the Saints, he’s going to play a smaller role. They also signed linebacker A.J. Klein to be their defensive signal-caller, and Te’o hasn’t been a part of passing-down packages in camp. And with everything he’s been through, he sounds like a guy that doesn’t mind blending in.

But that also required rehab after a traumatic injury, which required his younger sister Eden to move in with him to take care of him.

He thought last season was going to be the breakthrough, which is why he said he battled some emotional highs and lows for a while after the injury.

“My sister was that example to me about what love is,” he said. “Love is the strongest thing in this world, and that’s what the world needs more of is love. And my sister was the epitome of that.

“She was the living example for me of what love means, of who I want to be like — just like her.”

And he hopes he can simply be a football player again, after being so much more than that for so long.