Notre Dame football: Te'o blends with Chargers' vets
SAN DIEGO — Philip Rivers thought former Notre Dame All-American linebacker Manti Te'o had a decent first interaction with San Diego Chargers veterans.
"It didn't seem like he was lost or anything ... he didn't stand out, which was a good thing," Rivers said after the first practice of organized team activities, which are practices in helmets, jerseys and shorts, but no pads.
Te'o did get matched up with star tight end Antonio Gates a few times, which was "a quick welcome, Day 1," Rivers said.
"Today was a good first day," said inside linebacker Donald Butler, who will be paired with Te'o in the Chargers' 3-4 defense.
The only person who didn't get to talk about Te'o's performance was Te'o.
The team pulled an end run and kept Te'o away from a large media contingent that hoped to find out from the player how he felt after mixing it up with vets for the first time.
As Te'o walked off the field, an assistant coach put an arm around the rookie's shoulders and said he had to get to a meeting.
Te'o was picked by the Chargers in the second round after slipping out of the opening round in part because of a poor performance in a blowout loss to Alabama in the national championship game.
If the Chargers can protect Rivers on the left side of the offensive line as well as they're protecting Te'o from the media, they might end their three-year playoff drought.
The Chargers have taken unprecedented steps to limit Te'o's time in front of the microphones. The team refused to let reporters do customary one-on-ones with him after his introductory news conference during the draft, and has continued to refuse to set up interviews with the linebacker.
Te'o did speak after the first practice of rookie minicamp on Friday but was the only player off-limits on Monday.
"We make decisions that we think are best for the organization," rookie head coach Mike McCoy said. "Like every other player, we've got a plan and we move forward with it. He addressed everyone the other day. We have a schedule for him and we're going to follow it. We have a belief in what we're doing and the way we're going to take care of our players."
Te'o worked with the first-team defense.
"He's done a nice job," McCoy said. "It was a good start for him this weekend. We have big expectations for him coming in here and stepping in and playing for us. He's in there with the ones right now and we're going to see how much he can pick up."
Said Butler: "Obviously, we have high expectations for him coming in and playing and hopefully he can get our system down and come in and be productive."