The San Diego Chargers have a bit of a respite this week as organized team activities (OTAs) are on hiatus until June 3.
The current crop of rookies have nine days of practices under their belts, but some first-year players are already turning heads, and some for all the wrong reasons.
Much like a new employee enjoying a two-week training/introductory phase at a company, these rookies have moved past any grace period with the Bolts and into “professional football player” status.
Here are the biggest rookie storylines from OTAs so far.
In non-football-related ways, two rookies made headlines.
The first headline (distraction?) was the San Diego Chargers' own fault, and they did it on purpose. The team made an “organizational decision” to keep rookie linebacker Manti Te’o from talking to reporters.
The second-round draft pick made one appearance before reporters during the rookie mini-camp and then was withheld from press conferences during the first two weeks of OTAs. The team said it wanted to make sure people talked to Te’o about football-related issues.
While the thought process was an attempt to keep the conversation surrounding the Chargers relegated to purely football-related updates, the “Manti media blackout” became the story.
Te’o made also made headlines for attending a Hollywood party. While a former Heisman candidate attending a party may seem like a slow news day, things get a little dicey when the get-together in question is a publicity party for Maxim’s Hot 100 list, and No. 69 on that list is a fake dead girlfriend.
One concern about drafting Te’o was the possible media circus that would follow him. While it has been relatively calm compared to Tebow-mania, Te’o is still making waves for non-football-related issues.
Rookie mistakes usually come in the form of missed assignments, being late to film study or forgetting to carry the veterans’ bags.
Rookie wide receiver Keenan Allen made another type of rookie mistake, and this may be harder for fans to forgive than running the wrong route.
The first-year receiver from Cal posted a video on Vine where he was wearing a (gasp!) Oakland Raiders cap. He could have worn almost any other team cap and no one would have even mentioned it (well, he probably should not wear a Broncos or Chiefs cap), but wearing a Raiders cap is the worst.
It’s hard to imagine a New York Yankees prospect wearing Red Sox gear, but that is the equivalent of what Allen did.
Apparently Allen got an earful (Twitter-ful?) from fans and quickly apologized.
As noted by Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune, Eric Weddle talked to Allen about the incident, hopefully informing the third-round draft pick that fans do not care who you rooted for three months ago because you are a Charger now. Allen noted that Weddle told him, "Don't do it again."
Not all Te’o news was bad.
In fact, the majority of it was positive.
Heading into (and out of) the NFL draft, scouts wondered if Te’o would be an every-down linebacker. They questioned his ability to match up with speedy running backs and bigger tight ends.
After the first couple of practices, apparently the coaches are satisfied.
Head coach Mike McCoy told Peter King of Sports Illustrated that Te’o will start at inside linebacker and get plenty of playing time.
“Our plan is for him to play three downs, and when we scouted him, we believed that’s what he’d be,” McCoy told King.
Another concern with Te’o was how veterans would receive him.
The way NFL veterans treat rookies during OTAs and training camps can make fraternity hazing look tame. Veterans like to knock rookies down a couple of pegs on the totem pole to ensure the new guys realize hot-shot college stars are still the bottom of the food chain in an NFL locker room.
Apparently Te’o has won over his veteran teammates in just a handful of practices.
Fullback Le’Ron McClain told Sirus XM Radio that Te’o has worked hard and shown “that he’s a great player.”
Keenan Allen was a first-round prospect at one point, but continued questions about injuries (knee and ankle) dropped him to the third round, where San Diego selected him.
There were concerns and questions about how, when and if Allen would be able to contribute due to his health concerns.
Apparently those concerns are alleviated.
Josh Alper with Pro Football Talk says Allen participated in all drills and will be “full speed the rest of the offseason and training camp.”