The San Diego Chargers won't be making rookie linebacker Manti Te'o available to the media until team's June 13 mini camp according to Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego. The move is an effort to shield Te'o from negative media attention relating to the scandal of Lennay Kekua, his fake ex-girlfriend. To be clear, as most of you know, Te'o was the victim in the scandal.
Still, the Chargers are making a mistake by shielding Te'o from the media. When the media does gain access to Te'o next month, there will be questions about the Chargers' decision to keep him away as well as those about how his teammates have treated him. The difference is that in mid-June, teams are truly starting to get into gear for preseason action.
Regardless of the timing of Te'o's first press conferences, a minor distraction will be created, if not for the whole team, at least for Te'o. In my mind, the Chargers should try to get it over with sooner rather than later. By pushing the inevitable back another month, they're pushing the distraction closer to real games. That doesn't seem like a smart decision.
To this point, Te'o has smartly played along and not blown up every time someone mentions Lennay Kekua. Te'o attended Maxim's Hot 100 party, and after that, any talk of Kekua should be fading away. This isn't something that we'll talk about forever. Once real football starts, it'll be a passing mention by a broadcaster at best. The Chargers should be going along with Te'o. If he doesn't want to talk with the media, that's fine, but don't shield him if he's okay with talking. We don't know if that's what's happening, but if Te'o is ready to talk, and the Chargers are just looking to avoid distractions, San Diego is making a mistake.
Chargers director or public relations Bill Johnston talked about the decision 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."
If that's the whole and true rationale the Chargers are using to justify the situation, they're simply making a mistake. No one is ever perfectly comfortable in a brand new city around brand new people. By getting this put in the past as soon as possible, the Chargers would be helping Te'o get comfortable when it counts, but now, Te'o will have to deal with an uncomfortable topic for at least another month.