The Manti Te’o story is changing, and that’s a good thing. A very good thing.

The questions about the hoax and its aftermath are diminishing. With mini-camps wrapping up and training camp closer than you think, the narrative is shifting to a better place: the football field.

Te’o, the San Diego Chargers’ rookie linebacker, met the media Tuesday for the first time in more than a month. The majority of the questions during a 17-minute news conference were, refreshingly, about football.

Of course, some of the reporters in attendance at the Chargers’ practice facility asked Te’o about the bizarre events that sullied his reputation and damaged his draft stock. But it was hardly the main theme of the day. And it might have been even less of a topic had the Chargers not limited Te’o’s availability.

The organization decided to put Te’o on an interview pitch count after selecting him in the second round of April’s draft. While other players are accessible every day the Chargers have open off-season practices, Te’o is not. Barring something unforeseen, we won’t hear from him again until training camp.
The organization’s intent is admirable: protect a young player who’s bound to attract undue media attention and allow him to concentrate on his new job. But the plan might have had the opposite effect in that the press hasn’t quite gotten the hoax subplot out of its system. Had Te’o been more available, there might not have been any non-football questions thrown at him Tuesday.

The “Catfish” storyline, in some form, undoubtedly will linger into training camp. It will surely come up when the Chargers open their season against the Houston Texans on ESPN’s Monday Night Football. It will always have a place on Te’o’s Wikipedia page.

But it’s moving down. It’s fading away. It isn’t defining Manti Te’o anymore. If he builds on this promising start to his NFL career and resembles the player who starred at Notre Dame — until the BCS title game, anyway — it will become a footnote. That’s all it deserves to be.

“I’m still wondering what the story is,” an incredulous Philip Rivers said Tuesday when asked if he was concerned that Te’o could become a distraction. “I don’t know what y’all keep asking about, I really don’t.

“I don’t know where the distraction can come from. I don’t see it. The story is so old and tired that I would figure y’all would be moved on to something else by now.”
Don’t worry, Philip. We’re getting there.