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Extra Points: Te'o rumors make NFL look small

By John McMullen, NFL Editor

(Sports Network) - NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has already decided what he would like his legacy to be.

While Pete Rozelle and Paul Tagliabue will be forever revered as economic geniuses, there was a dark side to their respective watches -- the NFL turned into a clearinghouse for felons and miscreants.

Goodell wanted to clean that up and has been far more aggressive in terms of disciplining players, something which has made him fairly unpopular with some because of it.

The "gotcha" type of nature of the NFL's public relations-fueled performance- enhancing drugs policy and who it really serves can always be dissected, but sidelining players for crimes or drug offenses should never be questioned, even by the NFLPA.

That said, most fans don't really care if their favorite stars are failures as human beings as long as they can deliver the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the hometown team. That doesn't mean the leader of the NFL can't or shouldn't grab for the moral high ground whenever possible, though.

My problem is a selective enforcement of morality and why Goodell doesn't take a look at some of the decision-makers in his league who embarrass the NFL far more than an abuser of Adderall ever could.

Maybe Goodell's next ethical outage should be aimed at people like Miami Dolphins general manager Jeff Ireland, who once asked Cowboys star Dez Bryant if his mother was a prostitute.

Or maybe Goodell should try to find out who wanted to know if Colorado tight end Nick Kasa "liked girls" at the scouting combine earlier this week.

After all, U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has decreed "sex- stereotyping" as a form of discrimination illegal under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Notre Dame star Manti Te'o was the lead story during much of the combine and the microscope he was placed under was largely a self-inflicted nuisance.

Te'o, of course, claims he was led to believe a "girlfriend" he had met online, Lennay Kekua, was a real person who died from leukemia. In reality, a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo created Kekua out of thin air.

Tuiasosopo later claimed he concocted the whole "catfishing" scam because he was in love with Te'o. Subsequent Te'o lies to his own father, his teammates and coaches, coupled with a failure to come clean immediately are troubling but tame in comparison to what other NFL prospects have done in the past.

Yet when Te'o ran a predictably slow time of 4.82 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine, you might have thought the sky was falling on the runner-up for the Heisman Trophy.

In reality, Te'o was supposed to run in the 4.75 range, so chalking up a pair of runs just over 4.8 were hardly a surprise to anyone, perhaps a slight disappointment but nothing which couldn't have been cured at Notre Dame's upcoming pro day.

Speed is certainly an important part of success in the NFL, but it's hardly some kind of definitive stamp on future success.

Perhaps the best pure football player since Jim Brown, Hall of Fame wide receiver Jerry Rice, ran a 4.72 at the NFL Combine. Cris Carter was probably a tick slower than that and he'll be joining Rice in Canton this summer.

A natural instinct in this game turns a 4.72 to a 4.4 rather quickly, just as a false step renders a 4.4 virtually meaningless.

Te'o's performance, however, was a chance for his detractors to pile on.

Katie Couric of all people exposed what many in the NFL are actually thinking about Te'o during a high-profile interview with him on her syndicated talk show last month, and it has nothing to do with speed or lack thereof.

Couric, the former host of "Today" and current ABC News contributor, asked the 6-foot-1, 241-pound Te'o if he was gay.

In a pie-in-the-sky world, that kind of thing shouldn't matter. In the testosterone-fueled world of the NFL, however, sexuality might be the final frontier.

After ex-San Francisco 49ers tackle Kwame Harris was arrested for a domestic incident in late January -- one that revealed he was gay -- comedian Artie Lange asked current 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver what he would think about having a gay teammate.

"I don't do the gay guys man," Culliver said. "I don't do that. No, we don't got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can't be with that sweet stuff. Nah -- can't be -- in the locker room, man."

Culliver then went on to suggest homosexual athletes should keep their sexuality private until 10 years after they retire.

Harsh but indicative of the intolerance pervading the NFL culture.

Culliver was vilified, of course, and spent the rest of his Super Bowl week backpedaling, something that satiated the politically correct crowd but added little to the discourse and the fact that so many share his views.

No active NFL player has ever come out of the closet yet various studies on sexuality have pegged up to 10 percent of the population as gay. That number seems high to many, so let's say it's 5 percent. That would mean 85 current NFL players are homosexuals.

Statistics aside -- understand there are gay men playing in the NFL right now and the actual number is -- or at least should be -- inconsequential. The fact that people go to ridiculous lengths in an effort to conceal who they really are, is.

The real question surrounding Manti Te'o is a simple one -- can he play? In fact, that should be the only question.

Unfortunately to some of the more shallow and superficial power-brokers in the NFL, it's a query which will remain awash in a sea of stereotypes, never to be asked.

02/27 14:02:46 ET