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Brandt: Te'o's draft stock could plummet further


Brandt: Te'o's draft stock could plummet further

Here's the real story: Manti Te'o's stock in the NFL draft already was sinking.

Blame his performance in the BCS title game, not any hoax or conspiracy, for that.

Still, the uncertainty surrounding Notre Dame's All-American linebacker could further hurt his draft stock, NFL draft consultant Gil Brandt said.

Brandt called the story ``something I have never witnessed'' in his half-century in pro football.

``I think some teams will say it isn't worth the problem'' to draft Te'o, said Brandt, who has the linebacker rated 19th overall in the first round.

The former Dallas Cowboys general manager added Thursday that Te'o's stock had plummeted after a poor performance in the BCS championship game.

``I don't think anybody considered him to be a top-five pick before all this happened,'' Brandt said. ``In that game against Alabama, this was like a guy who was the best shooter in the world in basketball and here comes a game and he can't even hit the backboard. His play in that game was absolutely horrible. He missed on run blitzes; guys ran over him ...''

Te'o would hardly be the first player to see his draft stock sink because of off-field issues. Last year, North Alabama cornerback Janoris Jenkins fell to the second round after multiple run-ins with the law related to marijuana got him dismissed from Florida.

Warren Sapp in 1995 and Randy Moss in 1998 slid because of character concerns; both are now considered potential Hall of Famers.

Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery said ``it's no different what the red flags are.''

``You've got to identify them,'' he said. ``You've got to research it and then you decide what impact that has on the total person in terms of his ability to play football and to manage his life.''

Oakland Raiders GM Reggie McKenzie agreed.

``It makes you go and get all the answers, cross your Ts and dot your Is and make sure,'' he said. ``With any player, you have to make sure what you're getting from a character standpoint other than his ability, his talents. Try to get to know the guy. So, yes, it will weigh in heavily.''

David Schwab, a senior executive at sports management firm Octagon, considered Te'o perhaps the most marketable player coming into this year's draft. As the face of a Notre Dame team that returned to national relevance, the Heisman Trophy runner-up had the name recognition of few college stars.

``Compassionate'' and ``heartwarming'' were some of the adjectives Schwab would have used to describe his image.

Now, that persona will depend on the details that emerge about the story of a girlfriend who didn't exist.

``If he truly had nothing to do with it, I think the long-term damage is zero,'' said Schwab, who specializes in matching companies to celebrities.

In the short term, it's unlikely to see Te'o promoting any products, because a public appearance would turn into an impromptu news conference about the hoax. If uncertainty lingers about exactly what happened, Schwab said, many companies may hesitate to sign him.

But even if Te'o is implicated in the hoax, he could still eventually turn into a sponsor's dream if he blossoms as an NFL star.

``If you perform on the field, you quickly become marketable,'' Schwab said.

Look no further than Ray Lewis, the Baltimore Ravens linebacker who was charged with murder in 2000. The charges were dropped after Lewis agreed to testify against two other men and he subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstruction of justice. This week he's a beloved figure heading into the AFC championship with retirement looming.

Teams may be less likely to take a risk on Te'o in the draft if they don't believe he can become a dominant player.

Brandt noted how the inside linebacker position doesn't carry as much importance in the NFL as it once did. In the last 10 years, only four inside linebackers were taken in the first round, although one of them was perennial All-Pro Patrick Willis of San Francisco.

``I think it would be different if it was a quarterback who would change the game,'' he said. ``But linebackers are a piece to the puzzle; they don't solve the puzzle. Other than Ray Lewis, I don't know of any linebacker you say, `We've got to have this guy.'

``(Inside) linebackers are not as important as they used to be. We're down to one or two first-round linebackers now.''

Brandt wondered how Te'o could be so effective during the season, including seven interceptions - ``unheard of, like hitting .450 in baseball'' - and then so unproductive in the championship game.

``Between now and 97 days from now when the draft comes, there'll be a lot of people investigating just what took place,'' he said.


Josh Dubow in Alameda, Calif., and Andrew Seligman in Lake Forest, Ill., contributed to this story.


Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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Injury Geno Smith suffered vs. Ravens thought to be torn ACL

Injury Geno Smith suffered vs. Ravens thought to be torn ACL

The New York Jets' quarterback controversy appears to have taken another turn.

The team believes the injury Geno Smith suffered against the Ravens is a torn ACL, according to multiple reports.

The Jets decided to bench Ryan Fitzpatrick and go with Smith against the Ravens after a 26-3 Week 6 loss to the Cardinals. Fitzpatrick was leading the NFL in interceptions through Week 6 with 11.

But when the injury forced Smith out of the game late in the second quarter, Fitzpatrick came in and went 9-of-14 for 120 yards and a touchdown, leading the Jets to a 24-16 win. Smith was 4-of-8 for 95 yards and one touchdown before sustaining the injury.

He now has the chance to regain his starting spot.

RELATED: Fitzpatrick critical of Jets organization following win over Ravens

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Former Raven Vonta Leach critical of NFL's double-standard in regards to Josh Brown, Ray Rice

Former Raven Vonta Leach critical of NFL's double-standard in regards to Josh Brown, Ray Rice

Former Ravens' fullback Vonta Leach wants to why.

Leach, who paved the way for the Ravens run game from 2011 to 2013, wants to know why Giants kicker Josh Brown remains in the NFL while Ray Rice still struggles to find work.

Brown did not travel with the Giants to England for their Week 7 game against the Rams due after new information related to domestic violence against his then-wife came to light this week. Brown was placed on the commissioner's exempt list, and according to an ESPN source, the Giants are all but done with him.

Rice, who was teammates with Leach for three seasons, was essentially excommunicated from the Ravens and the NFL after a 2014 video tape was leaked showing Rice strike then-fiancee Janay Palmer in an Atlantic City casino elevator.

Leach wants to know why Brown, who admitted to numerous incidences of domestic violence, has yet to be given the same sort of punishment Rice received.

Rice has made every effort possible to atone for his sin. He has spoken to numerous youth, high school and college teams about the treatment of women, and has shown great sorrow and remorse in the wake of his actions. One would think Rice has done enough to deserve a second chance.

But the issue here is two-fold.

First, Rice is a 5-8 running back who was already nearing a decline at the time of his suspension. Teams don't rely on running backs in the same regard as a few years ago, and while Rice deserves a second chance, he just simple isn't a desired commodity.

Secondly, the video evidence changed the entire perspective. The initial video of Rice dragging his unconscious fiancee out of the elevator was leaked on February 19. Rice was issued a two-game suspension by the NFL four months later. On September 8, video of Rice striking Palmer was leaked. On the very same day, Rice was released by the Ravens and issued an indefinite suspension by the NFL.

There is no tangible evidence against Brown, although it should not make a difference.

Domestic violence is domestic violence regardless of video evidence. But the swift handling of Rice in wake of the second video set a dangerous precedent.

Leach is right. Brown admitted to abusing his wife several times. The discrepancy between the handling of Rice and the handling of Brown should not be this vast. 

While the NFL is attempting to do due diligence, the precedent they set with Rice has made it nearly impossible for them to do the right thing, and they have only themselves to blame.

They also owe Leach — and all of us — an answer.