New Orleans Saints Linebacker Manti Te’o
*Conference Call with New Orleans Media *
Thursday, March 23, 2017
What led you to decide to come to the Saints?
“It was a great opportunity. I thought that I really enjoyed the coaching staff, getting to meet them and getting to know them a little bit. I think it’s a great opportunity for me to come in and to compete and to show what I can do and I’m just grateful that they believed in me enough to bring me on board. I’m real excited.”
How much of an influence was Mike Nolan and did he have a role in recruiting you?
“Coach Nolan didn’t really say much to me. He did let me know that he was there (in New Orleans), but he didn’t really recruit me at all. New Orleans kind of recruited itself, but definitely having him there (makes me) have a level of comfort with Coach Nolan because he was my (position) coach here in San Diego. I do have a really good relationship with him and there are definitely some similarities for me (and him) and coming into a new team and into a new city. I think to have a guy like Coach Nolan in the position that he is in, it’s going to make that transition a little more smooth.”
Where do you see yourself fitting into this group?
“I see (myself fitting) wherever they need me. I think that is something that the coaches will know more than me. I just see myself out there on the field, wherever that may be making plays. Whatever role I have I’m going to work hard at it and be the best at it.”
Where do you think you are healthwise and do you anticipate being ready for OTAs or are you eyeing training camp?
“As far as (how) the rehab has been going along it’s been going well. I’ve been rehabbing ever since the beginning of October. I’m excited to get with the training staff over there, work with them and we’ll see how fast I can go, but (it’s) definitely been a long process and I think it’s been a learning experience.”
Do you anticipate being ready for OTAs or is it something that’s in the works?
“It’s still something that’s in the works right now. Like I said when I go over there to New Orleans I’ll meet with the training staff and we’ll work hard to make sure that I can come back as soon as possible.”
What would be your other position aside from inside linebacker?
“Whatever is going to put me in position to get the running back, quarterback, receiver or whoever has the ball. I think the coaches know for the most part where they want me at and wherever they think I’m needed and wherever that is I’m going to make the best out of it.
They signed A.J. Klein in this offseason who has experience at middle linebacker and have Craig Robertson returning who started the majority of the 2016 season at middle linebacker; did you talk about that and come up with a comfort level that they do have a vision for all of you playing at the same time?
“That is not a conversation that I have had with them. I am sure that that conversation will come up later. I think it is just going to, like you said to have all of us in the same room and fighting for the same position, it is just going to make our defense better because the competition level is going to be really high.”
Is it your goal to be in that signal-caller captain middle linebacker role?
“Yes, that has been the position that I have played since Pop Warner. I have always been the leader, whether it is inside or outside. I have always been the signal-caller. It is not just to have on my resume, but I feel that I am more comfortable when I have guys that can depend on me to do my job and to execute, and to help them execute. To have their trust really helps to elevate my game. That kind of responsibility really helps bring out the best in me. It is something that I am real comfortable with.”
Do you know how many teams showed interest and did you take any other visits?
“No, that is something that my agent handles.”
The Saints right now have six Polynesians on the team; what does it mean to you to be on a team with so many Polys?
“Ok, you need to help me out. I do know of Hau’oli (Kikaha). I know of Max (Unger) and I know of Larry (Warford) plus myself, so that is four. Are there two more?”
Yes, Senio Kelemete and Michael Hoomanawanui?
“Oh yes, that’s right. Max (Unger) is an OG. We have all kind of followed Max. Max is one of those guys who kind of blazed the trail for all of us. Max is what we call an OG. Having all of those Poly guys is going to be great. I don’t think I have been on a team with so many Polys since high school. It’s going to be nice to have a lot of commonalities with people, and a lot of similar interest and stuff like that. We kind of take care of our own. Hau’oli (Kikaha) is from my hometown. I have watched Hau’oli since high school. It’s going to be nice to reunite with everybody.”