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Pompei: Good time to buy on Te’o

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2013 11:16 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — INDIANAPOLIS — If Manti Te’o were a stock, now would be a good time to buy.

His value had been driven down by a poor performance in the BCS national championship game and the girlfriend hoax saga.

It might have been driven down further Monday with a mediocre NFL combine workout.

Te’o posted a vertical jump of 33 inches and a broad jump of 113 inches.

And he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.82 seconds. That placed him 20th out of 26 linebackers.

With every fraction of a second it took him to run those 40 yards, it became more apparent he will be available at pick No. 20 of the NFL draft, where the Bears are sitting.

In fact, there even were some rumblings that Te’o could fall out of the first round. In 2009, James Laurinaitis and Rey Maualuga both fell to the second round after running 4.76 and 4.78, respectively.

So Bears general manager Phil Emery has to decide if Te’o can be the one to carry on the Bears linebacker legacy of Brian Urlacher, Mike Singletary, Dick Butkus and Bill George.

In order to answer that question, he will have to ignore the noise. And some of that noise was coming from Lucas Oil Field on Monday.

That 40-yard dash time? Didn’t mean a whole lot.

It’s never a bad thing to run a sizzling 40, but the truth is track speed has little to do with middle linebacker play. “If a middle linebacker runs a 4.82 but he is instinctive and quick in a short area, the 40-yard dash time doesn’t matter,” one AFC general manager said. “At that position what matters is they are productive and make plays.”

Lofa Tatupu ran a 4.83 in the 40-yard dash and promptly made three Pro Bowl appearances as a member of the Seahawks.

In the 20-yard shuttle, which measures short-area quickness and ability to change direction, Te’o had a respectable time of 4.27.

More than one front-office man said Te’o looked tense and nervous, and that they expect him to test better at his pro day in South Bend.

Many NFL teams were more interested in listening to Te’o talk at the combine than they were in watching him prance around wearing Lycra. And according to four team executives who interviewed Te’o, he talked as well as he played last season — which is to say he did a fine job in interviews.

“Manti did a real good job with the interview,” Bucs general manager Mark Dominik said. “You could see how smart he was, how bright he was.”

Vikings general manager Rick Spielman praised Te’o for being upbeat and full of energy in their interview session even though he was being interviewed at 10:45 p.m. after Te’o previously had been interviewed by a dozen or so teams.

NFL teams are given only 15 minutes of interview time with each prospect at the combine. So there weren’t any in-depth, soul-baring conversations about what Te’o did or did not do regarding the catfishing incident.

More than one team indicated a desire to speak with him further, when time constraints are not an issue. Te’o likely will be invited to visit many NFL facilities before the draft.

“We’ll get to know him better as the process goes along,” one NFC general manager said. “We didn’t talk about a lot of the issues in 15 minutes. We will do that at a later time. But he was very sincere in the time we had.”

Ultimately, what should carry the evaluation of Te’o is his body of work at Notre Dame. That body of work includes his performance against Alabama — but it also includes performances in 47 other college starts.

“Guys all have tough games,” Dominik said. “You have to look at the whole season. You can’t look at one game and say that defines the guy.”

The most challenging part of evaluating Te’o might be focusing strictly on the football player and everything he did between the lines.

“I think a lot has been blown out of proportion with Manti,” Giants general manager Jerry Reese said. “We have to depend mostly on our evaluation on what he did on the field. We talk to them about off-field issues, take psychological inventories, and find out as much as we can. But at some point you can talk yourself out of some good football players with too much information. We try not to do that. We don’t put our head in the sand, but we don’t overanalyze the information we get either.”

Now might not be the only good time to buy Manti Te’o.

April 25 might be a good time as well.

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