SAN DIEGO (AP)— Manti Te’o is poised to make his regular-season debut when the Chargers host the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
Te’o, who has been out with an injured right foot since Aug. 8, has been working with the starters this week and he’s hoping to help a defense that is ranked dead last against the pass and No. 31 overall.
“I’m excited, anxious and the nerves are going to be flying around,” said Te’o, a Heisman Trophy finalist at Notre Dame and the Chargers’ second-round pick. “But at the end of the day, football is football. My guys have been reminding me of that.”
Coach Mike McCoy said Te’o has looked good in practice and he expects the linebacker to do fine on Sunday.
In particular, McCoy is hoping Te’o can help the Chargers force turnovers.
The Chargers are minus-three in turnover ratio. They haven’t recovered a fumble and have only one interception, and that came in the opening minutes of the first game.
“That’s definitely what a defense wants to do is keep the points down and get the ball back,” said Te’o. “But I can’t promise you anything other than trying to help the team win.”
Te’o played just nine snaps before getting hurt in a preseason game. The transition from practice speed to game speed figures to be a challenge, but the Chargers don’t have the luxury of bringing him along slowly.
Defensive coordinator John Pagano is confident Te’o has the skills to make the adjustment.
“We’re giving him as much game speed here as we can,” Pagano said. “It’s always a challenge your first time playing in anything. It’s the ability, and the game speed is always going to be faster than anything else. But that is something he is going to adapt to very quickly.”