“It always sets a player back anytime you have an injury like that,” defensive coordinator John Pagano said. “It hurts his development to where you can’t go run and react. Anybody can read stuff, anybody can look at film, but until you’re out reacting, going and doing those things, it’s going to slow any player’s development.”
Te’o said he didn’t understand how big of a setback it was until he was able to return to practice.
“I was frustrated and the coaches said, ‘Just be patient with it. It will come in time,’” Te’o said. “I’ve always been one to want results now. I need to perform the way I perform and I wasn’t performing the way I wanted to, so it was hard for me.”
He said repetition, help from veteran teammates such as fellow inside linebacker Donald Butler and safety Eric Weddle, and coaches correcting him helped along.
“I think I’ve learned more from my mistakes than I’ve learned from all the plays I’ve made,” Te’o said.
He finished the regular season with 93 tackles, third on the team. Weddle had 114 and Butler, who missed three games to injury, had 99.
“He’s a young guy who every week progressively has gotten better,” Butler said. “He’s always asking questions, always trying to get better, and that’s huge in any young guy. He’s doing great. He’s going to continue to get better.”
Butler was impressed with the way Te’o pushed himself to get back from the injury.
“You’ll have days where you just like, ‘Man, I really just need some rest,’ but you’ve got to go, you’ve got to learn. And we needed him,” Butler said. “Hat’s off to him for making sure that each and every day he was in here doing his rehab and taking care of business.”