In case fans of the San Diego Chargers forgot, linebacker Manti Te’o is still a part of this football team. Unfortunately it would be easy to let him slip your mind since he hasn’t even been on the practice field since suffering a foot injury back on August 8. That changed on Wednesday as the former Notre Dame tackling machine returned to the practice field for the Bolts, and he seemed thrilled to be back. Te’o told ESPN:
“It’s been a long time and it’s definitely been a learning process. But I’m glad I’m at the stage where I am right now and we’re going to get better every day.”
Although he still hasn’t played a single snap in the NFL – as far as regular season is concerned – Te’o has been very much acclimated to the rigors of the week in, week out process. His head coach Mike McCoy explained that even though he wasn’t out on the field making tackles, Te’o was still very much a part of the team to begin the season. McCoy said:
“He has been in every meeting, been at every practice, been at every walk-through, been on the road with us. He hasn’t missed anything besides practice time. It’s just a matter of how quickly he gets back into football shape and gets ready to go.”
While nothing can replace live reps out on the field, it may have actually been a blessing in disguise for Te’o to go under the radar for a while and soak up the knowledge of the game. What makes him such a dangerous player is his intuition and his ability to read and diagnose plays before the ball is even snapped. Two weeks of watching film and basically being a coach on the sidelines can only enhance that already high-quality trait for Te’o.
Improving on the field is obviously what the Chargers are most interested in heading into their Week 3 matchup with the Tennessee Titans. Adding Te’o into the mix at linebacker would certainly aid that cause, and the linebacker seemed encouraged following his first football action in more than a month. In regards to playing this weekend, Te’o said:
“I hope so, but I don’t know. There’s always a chance I can play. To be honest with you, we haven’t really tested it. We don’t want to test it and take steps back. So what I did do out there, I was cutting, I was taking off, change-of-direction, and it felt pretty good.”
As long as there are no setbacks with Te’o as the week progresses, it certainly wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see him activated on Sunday. Adding his savvy positioning into the mix would certainly be beneficial to a defense that has was somewhat exposed by the Philadelphia Eagles last week. Facing a similarly shifty running back to the Eagles’ LeSean McCoy this weekend in the Titans’ Chris Johnson, there’s no doubt the Chargers could use a ‘play diagnosing Jesse’ like Te’o out there between the white lines.