Chicago Sun-Times
with Mark Lazerus

Manti a 'communicator' in practice

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Manti Te'o has admitted he feels guilty when he's not able to practice fully with his teammates, which has been the case this week, as it has been for much of the season.

It's only natural, then, that Harrison Smith tease him about it. It's what teammates do.

"I actually try to give him a hard time," Smith said. "When he's not practicing, I try to joke with him. But he always wants to be out there. He knows how practice affects the games because you need to see the looks that you're going to see in the game. 

"But he's still been out there. He's still going, and taking every rep that he can take. That's just the type of competitive guy that he is. He doesn't want to get behind, so he's going to force himself to do it."

Smith said Te'o doesn't always take the needling as intended.

"Sometimes he gets a little upset about it. But you've got to have fun when you're going out there," he said. "So when he's taking a rep off or taking something off, I'll tell him he's being Mr. Big Time or something like that."

Te'o re-injured an ankle that has hampered him for much of the season. Robby Toma, Te'o's high school teammate Punahou High in Laie, Hawaii, is also expected to see a lot of playing time while filling in for receiver Theo Riddick, who will miss the game with a hamstring injury.

"We are cautious with Manti," coach Brian Kelly said. "He said, 'Coach, I'm ready to go." [But] he knows his limitations. We're pleased with him and we're pleased with Robby. We know Robby. He's a guy who can really help our football team. Too bad Theo is out but we don't feel with Robby Toma that we've got a No. 2 in there. He can really help out our offense. We're in pretty good shape there."

Kelly said Te'o has matured to the point where he knows how important he is to the defense and understands he has to take it easy.

"We're well past is he tough enough," Kelly said. "But we're also well past where he knows how essential he is to getting us lined up and getting our front lined up. He's in that position where he wants to be out there for communication but he's smart enough to know, maybe I'm not going to get into the scrape position as fast as I normally would. That's where we are with Manti. He wants to be smart but he wants to be out there communicating." 

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This page contains a single entry by Neil Hayes published on November 9, 2011 6:52 PM.

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