Training camps have officially opened across the NFL, and that means at least 90 players on every single team are vying for a spot on the regular season 53-man roster. Some spots may be more set in stone than others, but everyone has a real chance to make an impression.
For rookies and other young players, that breeds excitement. On the opposite end of that spectrum, it could also mean the end for several aging players and long-time veterans.
Here’s a look at 15 NFL veterans who are on the bubble as training camps get underway.
15. Michael Johnson, DE, Cincinnati Bengals
Michael Johnson has meant a lot to the Bengals during his two stints with the team and was even their Walter Payton Man of the Year nominee in 2017. However, the NFL is a business, and at 31 years old with a diminishing snap count and a cap hit of over $6.1 million, his time in Cincinnati may be nearing an end. The Bengals have young players like Sam Hubbard, Jordan Willis and Carl Lawson who will push Johnson for playing time and likely render him expendable.
New Orleans Saints safety Marcus Williams may have had a chance to seal a win for his team on Sunday, but Manti Te’o was quick to remind reporters that Williams did not lose the game by himself.
Williams, who inexplicably missed a tackle that allowed Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs to break free for a game-winning touchdown, was hard on himself after the game. The rookie’s teammates defended him, most notably Te’o.
“He’s going to have so many opportunities, and he’s going to make so many great plays in the future,” Te’o said, via Josh Katzenstein of The Times-Picayune. “Everybody makes mistakes, and it wasn’t even him, you know what I mean? It wasn’t just him. He didn’t lose that game. I could’ve done a whole lot of things better. I could’ve made more tackles, I could’ve ran through gaps and made some TFLs, I could’ve done a lot of stuff. It wasn’t Marcus.
Williams had a great rookie season, recording 73 tackles and four interceptions. The second-round pick’s solid play was one of the main reasons the Saints finally had a viable secondary after struggling on defense for years.
“Marcus is a great player. He’s a young player, and he has a bright future ahead of him,” Te’o added. “He’s going to make more great plays than mistakes, and I’m just excited for the kid. He’s going to come back, and he’s going to get better. He’s really already ahead of his time as far as how he plays safety. Now, you add a lot of motivation to that. The sky’s the limit for him, and I’m glad that he’s my safety.”
Williams was reportedly crying in the locker room after the game, and it’s good to see his teammates pick him up after the way fans tore him apart on Twitter. That play will stick with him forever, but he’s young enough where he should have some chances for redemption.
The injury bug just won’t stop chowing down on the San Diego Chargers.
Fourth-year linebacker Manti Te’o hurt his left Achilles in the first quarter of Sunday’s contest against the Indianapolis Colts and was forced to exit early. He appeared to suffer the injury on a play of the dreaded non-contact variety.
Te’o was quickly ruled out for the rest of the game by the Chargers.
San Diego has already lost both running back Branden Oliver and tight end Jeff Cumberland to Achilles tears just this year alone. That’s not even to mention the season-ending injuries suffered by wide receiver Keenan Allen and running back Danny Woodhead in consecutive weeks. An extended absence from Te’o, who was actually been a rock-solid defensive contributor since being drafted by the Chargers in 2013, would be another gut punch to a San Diego team that has already had to endure a season full of them.
San Diego Chargers linebacker Manti Te’o appears to be in a relationship, and all indications are that his new girlfriend is a living, breathing person.
As our friends at Black Sports Online noticed, Instagram model Jovi Nicole has taken an interest in the Chargers over the last two months and recently posted a video that featured her and Te’o goofing off together:
If that isn’t proof enough, Jovi also shared a video of Te’o running off the field a couple months ago and captioned it with a little heart emoji.
If Te’o has been keeping the relationship a secret, who can blame him? We all remember the fake girlfriend hoax that Te’o has basically been getting harassed about since he was in college. Those who need a refresher can read more about that situation here.
Te’o appeared in 12 games for the Chargers this season and recorded 83 total tackles. We’re glad to see at least one young lady was able to brush the fake girlfriend stuff aside.
Photo via Jovi Nicole on Instagram
Manti Te’o fake girlfriend jokes are so 2013.
49ers offensive lineman Anthony Davis bragged on Twitter about making a Te’o fake girlfriend joke that upset the San Diego Chargers linebacker during Saturday’s game between the teams. He said the crack made Te’o mad.
On Monday, Te’o told UT San Diego that he thinks the jokes are simply stale.
“I got harassed a few times last year (on the field). I expected that. But this year?” Te’o said Monday. “I told him, ‘Find a new joke.’ ”
We reward players for new and original material, as well as creativity. Davis receives low marks on all accounts. However, he did not get a chance to play Te’o last year and probably had this saved up. Plus, the goal is to get inside your opponent’s head. If Davis accomplished that, then the joke was worthwhile.
For those of you who were wondering if Manti Te’o still catches flak for the whole fake girlfriend fiasco from nearly two years ago, San Francisco 49ers offensive lineman Anthony Davis has your answer.
A day after the San Diego Chargers defeated the Niners, Davis revealed that he asked Te’o about his fake girlfriend during the game. He claims the former Notre Dame star “snapped.”
Considering how the game unfolded, it’s kind of lame for Davis to tweet something like that. The Chargers erased a 28-point lead to stun the 49ers and beat them 38-35 in overtime. Niners fans would probably appreciate Davis’ jab at Te’o more if their team won.
That said, Davis proved that Te’o hears about the girlfriend hoax from opposing players — not just crazy collections of fans like this one. The story of Lennay Kekua was one of the most bizarre things we have ever encountered in sports. Te’o will probably hear about it for the rest of his career.
H/T For the Win
Oakland Raiders fans decided to have some fun with San Diego Chargers rookie linebacker Manti Te’o on Sunday night. Fans in the infamous Black Hole had a banner made that was a tribute to Te’o’s fake girlfriend Lennay Kekua, whose “death” supposedly occurred on Sept. 12, 2012. They also completed the set of Te’o taunts by holding a cutout of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who later admitted to masterminding the Te’o hoax. At some point these jokes will get old, but apparently we haven’t hit that point yet. Te’o actually played fairly well and was credited with five tackles in the loss, which marked his second career game.
Photo via Instagram
For quite some time, the Manti Te’o fake girlfriend hoax looked like it would be the story that never ends. The buzz has since died down, but Te’o has had to deal with some lingering heckling from minor league baseball teams and popular magazines. Apparently his former teammates have also faced questions about the alleged catfishing.
Houston Texans running back Cierre Wood, who was teammates with Te’o at Notre Dame last year, said a lot of people still ask him about Te’o’s fake girlfriend.
“Everybody asks me about Te’o,” Wood explained, via KHOU in Houston. “It’s something that I expected was going to happen. I got asked on the street a couple of times. I expected it from the locker room and what not.”
Those of you who still believe Te’o created the hoax himself — even after seeing Roniah Tuiasosopo recreate the Lennay Kekua voice on “Dr. Phil” — might be interested to hear that Wood actually spoke to the fake girlfriend once while at school.
“Yeah, I did,” Wood said when asked if he ever talked to Kekua. “I would come over to ask for a controller and he’d be like, ‘Come talk to my girl.’ It was on the computer screen and it was blank. I really don’t care. I heard someone talking, so I introduced myself, ‘Hi, I’m Cierre. How are you doing? Nice to meet you,’ and just went on about my business.”
Wood’s personal experience with the hoax is yet another example of how elaborate it was. At first, I thought for sure Te’o created the Kekua story for sympathy and attention. Now it seems pretty obvious that he was duped.
The NCAA reportedly is investigating Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel for allegedly getting paid to sign autographs in January. Manziel reportedly received a flat five-figure payment from memorabilia broker Drew Tieman, whom the quarterback met at the airport in Fort Lauderdale upon arriving in Florida to attend the BCS National Championship Game.
There are currently few details available on Tieman.
We were able to locate a Drew Tieman on Facebook, though the person’s page has now been deleted. On January 3, that Tieman shared a photo on Facebook of himself posing for a picture with former Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o in Fort Lauderdale:
The same Drew Tieman who shared the above photo on Facebook appears to be the same Drew Tieman who was booked on Dec. 17, 2009 in Miami for possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana. The Drew Tieman who was booked in Dec. 2009 was charged with intent to distribute marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The Manti Te’o jokes have grown old for the most part. Everyone’s got one, and it’s hard to come up with something new at this point. But we think Maxim hit a winner.
Maxim released its Hot 100 list this year and included Te’o’s fake girlfriend at No. 69. The image they used was a bikini hovering over some water. It’s the hope Te’o had that never came true.
When I first heard about Te’o’s fake girlfriend scoring a spot on the list, I honestly thought they selected the woman whose photos were stolen and used as the face of “Lennay Kekua.” She probably could have made it, too, but this was much better.