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What Te'o said to try to explain girlfriend hoax

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What Te'o said to try to explain girlfriend hoax

Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o tried to clear the air about how he fell into an online relationship with a fictitious woman he met online who called herself Lennay Kekua. His grief at her ``death'' became a major story during the college football season. The problem was Kekua was a hoax - there was no such person.

Te'o spoke to ESPN for 2 1/2 hours on Friday evening at an IMG training facility in Florida where he is training for the NFL draft.

In question-and-answer form, these are some highlights of the way events unfolded, according to Te'o:

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Q: WHEN DID TE'O'S ONLINE ``RELATIONSHIP'' WITH THE FAKE WOMAN BEGIN AND HOW DID IT DEVELOP?

A: Te'o says he received a Facebook friend request from Kekua in early 2010, his freshman year at Notre Dame. They were in contact on and off over the next couple of years and, as Te'o describes it, it naturally progressed until they started to get very close last April. At that time, Te'o was told by a person portraying Kekua's brother, that Lennay had been in a serious car accident. In the wake of that twist, Te'o began to talk to the girl much more frequently. He became hugely invested in her and was then told she had leukemia.

Kekua ``died'' on Sept. 12, the same day Te'o's real grandmother died. Te'o said he was grief-stricken and had a testy conversation with Kekua, then - hours later - the pranksters called and said his girlfriend was dead.

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Q: SO TE'O NEVER SAW LENNAY KEKUA IN THE FLESH?

A: That's right. They had planned to meet up one time in San Diego during a long layover he had on his way home to Hawaii. That never happened because on April 28, Te'o says he was told, she got into a serious car accident. Te'o said he was told the accident put Kekua into a coma, and when she came out her recovery from serious injuries drew them closer. He started talking to a woman portraying Kekua every day.

He said before he returned from Hawaii to South Bend for preseason practice he had planned to meet up with her on California, but he had to cancel this time to attend a family reunion in Utah.

Te'o claims they tried to make video phone calls using Skype and FaceTime, but he said he could never see her face. She would say she could see him and tease him about being able to use the technology correctly.

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Q: WAS TE'O IN ON THE SCAM?

A: He says no. Skeptics contend that his story is so fantastic it's hard to believe, that he couldn't be so gullible to have been fooled by the scam. Yet no one has come forward with hard evidence that pins down Te'o as being a participant. In the lengthy and detailed story by Deadspin.com that broke the news of the hoax, the strongest accusation that Te'o was one of the perpetrators was an unidentified friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the alleged mastermind of the prank, telling Deadspin he was ``80 percent sure'' that Manti Te'o was ``in on it.''

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Q: THROUGHOUT THE SEASON, THOUGH, TE'O SPOKE ABOUT HIS DEAD GIRLFRIEND AS IF SHE WE A LIVING PERSON. HOW DOES HE EXPLAIN THAT?

A: This is where it gets complicated. Te'o says he thought his girlfriend was real, but when she died - and word got out that he was playing through the deaths of both his grandmother and girlfriend - he was embarrassed that he had only ever had contact with Kekua online and by phone. Already, he had lied to his father and told him that he had seen Kekua.

So, in Te'o's words, ``I knew that - I even knew that it was crazy that I was with somebody that I didn't meet, and that alone people find out that this girl who died I was so invested in, and I didn't meet her as well. So I kind of tailored my stories to have people think that, yeah, he met her before she passed away. So people wouldn't think that I was some crazy dude.''

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Q: HOW DID THE SCHEME UNRAVEL?

A: Te'o received a phone call on Dec. 6 from the Kekua's phone number. On the line was a woman who sounded like Kekua. He says he was confused, and thought it was one of her sisters. The woman was telling him a story about having to fake her death to evade drug dealers but not directly identifying herself. Te'o said ``She kept going back and forth. `It's me.'

``I eventually just gave up and said, `Who is me?' And she said, `It's Lennay.' So we carried on that conversation, and I just got mad. I just went on a rampage. How could you do this to me? I ended that conversation by saying, simply, this: `You know what, Lennay, my Lennay died on Sept. 12. I don't know who you are, but Lennay died on Sept. 12th,' and that conversation ended.''

Te'o said he didn't know what to think at that point and her continued to refer to Lennay as his ``girlfriend.'' The woman contacted him again and the tales got even more confusing. He says he didn't think that Lennay wasn't real, he thought she might still be alive but that she was possibly toying with him.

He told his mother on Christmas Eve what was going on and his father on Christmas Day, and on Dec. 26th he told Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and defensive coordinator Bob Diaco. Within days, Notre Dame ordered an investigation.

Te'o told ESPN that not until the news broke earlier this week, and Tuiasosopo contacted him to apologize, did he finally realize Kekua wasn't real and the whole thing was a hoax.

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Q: HOW ELABORATE WAS THE SCHEME?

A: Very, according to Te'o. The pranksters used multiple characters, they sent photos of the flowers Te'o sent for Lennay's ``funeral'' to him to show they arrived. Te'o claims they became agitated when he began to see another girl at Notre Dame in December, and a woman claiming to be Lennay's sister called Te'o's mother to complain about it.

Lennay had a large extended family, Te'o says he was told, including a young relative, a 9-year-old girl named Pookah. Te'o met her face-to-face, along with Tuiasosopo, when Notre Dame was in California in November to play USC.

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Q: SO, IF IT WASN'T TE'O, WHO WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR THE HOAX?

The Deadspin story pointed to Tuiasosopo as being most involved, and Te'o said that the 22-year-old contacted him on Jan. 16 to apologize.

Te'o said the message went like this: ``I have two people that I want to come clean with and that's you and your family. I'm not going to say anything to the press. I just want you to know the truth. And God bless, and blah, blah, blah.''

Tuiasosopo has not yet spoken publicly about the situation.

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Q: WHAT NEXT?

A: It seems no laws were broken, and Te'o has given no indication he wants to pursue a civil suit against the pranksters. Unless someone comes forward to refute Te'o's claims, or new evidence is unearthed contradicting what he has said, the next people he'll need to answer to are NFL coaches and executives.

Te'o will likely attend the combine in February and there he will start doing job interviews with prospective new employers. He has been projected as a potential high first-round pick. The first round is held the night of April 25 in New York City.

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ESPN ranks John Wall much lower than he should be in top 100 player list

ESPN ranks John Wall much lower than he should be in top 100 player list

John Wall is known for using perceived slights in the media as motivation and, well, he's probably not going to like the latest NBA player rankings put out by ESPN.

Like many national outlets looking to fill out the last few days of the offseason with conversation-starting content, ESPN rolled out their 2018-19 top 100 NBA player rankings this week and Wall came in at No. 32.

Despite making his fifth All-Star team this past season and despite injuries being the biggest reason for his drop in numbers, ESPN has Wall outside of the top 30.

For some context, teammate Otto Porter, Jr. was ranked No. 38 and Bradley Beal came in ahead of Wall at No. 29.

Beal, by the way, somehow dropped from No. 28 the year before despite earning his first All-Star berth in a breakout 2017-18 season.

Wall, for what it's worth, dropped from No. 15 the year prior. Those rankings were released following a 2016-17 season in which he earned All-NBA honors. Porter was ranked No. 42 on that list.

ESPN's rankings are described as a forecast of what to expect in the upcoming season and they are based in advanced stats designed to measure a player's value to their team. 

Wall, though, appears to be the casualty of some recency bias. There are several players ahead of him that are difficult to justify. 

Take a look at some of the point guards with better rankings than Wall.

ESPN ranked Kemba Walker, Kyle Lowry and Jrue Holiday ahead of Wall. All three are excellent guards worthy of their All-Star nods and accolades. But, when healthy, Wall has proved to be on a different level.

Kyle Lowry, for example, is trending in the wrong direction at 32 years old and is coming off year in which his numbers fell off. If this is a forecast of his upcoming season, those things should be taken into account.

Ultimately, these lists are subjective and just made to spark debate. But Wall takes this stuff more seriously than most players and probably won't like what he reads.

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Week 3 Redskins vs Packers Preview: Aaron Rodgers in the way of a much needed bounce back

Week 3 Redskins vs Packers Preview: Aaron Rodgers in the way of a much needed bounce back

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. 

That might be the opening of some famous literature, but it also applies to the first two weeks of the Redskins season. 

In Week 1 the Redskins thrashed Arizona, dominating both sides of the ball en route to a 24-6 victory. In Week 2 the Colts thrashed the Redskins, at home, as Washington could not run the ball or get key stops on defense in a 21-9 loss.  

Looking forward, what Redskins team will show up on Sunday as the Packers come to FedEx Field for Week 3?

Four Factors

  1. Start running - Against the Cardinals, the Redskins dominated time of possession by running the ball. Adrian Peterson ran for nearly 100 yards and Chris Thompson added another 65 yards on the ground. The Redskins had the ball more than 22 minutes in the first half of that game. By Week 2, Peterson ran for just 20 yards on 11 carries. The Redskins could get nothing going on the ground. Nothing. The team must run better if they're going to beat the Packers, not just for offensive balance, but to rest the defense and keep Aaron Rodgers off the field. 
     
  2. Starts up front - One thing that will help the Redskins run the ball will be better play from their offensive line. That group will take a hit Sunday because starting left guard Shawn Lauvao won't play, and that means Chase Roullier moves to guard and backup Tony Bergstrom lines up at center. Regardless of what five players are on the field, the unit must produce more push against Green Bay than they did against Indianapolis. That starts on the edges, with Trent Williams and Morgan Moses, and a Pro Bowl type performance from Brandon Scherff. It's true these guys are banged up, but if they're on the field, the performance needs to be stronger. 
     
  3. Gandalf the White - Why are we writing about a fictional wizard? The ever-loquacious Josh Norman gave Packers all-world QB Aaron Rodgers the nickname of Gandalf because of the magic tricks that he pulls off week after week. One of the greatest QBs of all time, Rodgers is a constant threat on the field, literally every snap. Washington defensive coordinator Greg Manusky said the team will be prepared for the quick snap, one of Rodgers' favorite tricks that often leads to free plays and offsides calls. For the rest of Rodgers tricks, the Redskins defense needs to be prepared for a passer with a rocket arm and the sharpest eyes in the NFL. 
     
  4. Call the play, and execute - The Redskins did not have their best offensive game plan last week. Jay Gruden admitted as much this week. The Redskins offense also did not have their best game last week. Alex Smith and the receivers cannot get into a groove, and there is a chicken or egg discussion on if Smith needs to throw the ball downfield more or if the wideouts need to make more plays. The answer might reveal itself on Sunday. 
     

They Said It

  • Jay Gruden on facing Aaron Rodgers: "I mean he can do everything. His mobility probably sets him apart from some of the other guys. He stands in the pocket. He can move. He's a winner. I don’t know. I think if any team had him on their team and you're picking, whether you're picking first in the fantasy football quarterback draft or fifth, and you've got Aaron Rodgers, you feel good about winning every game that you play."
     
  • Greg Manusky on Redskins defensive scheme: "From our standpoint, we go into each game with the plan that we have."
     
  • Alex Smith on keeping pace with the Packers offense: "I think that you can get sucked into that. In the end, of course, we want to dominate regardless of the offense we are playing."
     
  • Packers coach Mike McCarthy on facing Alex Smith: "He’s definitely an excellent addition to the Washington Redskins and he’s going to be a big challenge for a defense."
     

Numbers & Notes

  • Adrian Peterson has 100 career touchdowns, good for No. 7 on the all time NFL list. John Riggins sits at No. 6 on the list with 104 TDs. 
  • In 17 career games against Green Bay, Peterson has run for nearly 1,800 yards and 13 TDs.
  • Matt Ioannidis has sacks in consecutive games, and a sack on Sunday would be the first time in his career with a sack in three consecutive games. 
  • The Redskins have not opened a season with a 2-1 record since 2008. 
     

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