From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The person Manti Te'o says was pretending to be his online girlfriend told the Notre Dame linebacker "I love you" in voicemails that were played during his interview with Katie Couric.Taped earlier this week and broadcast Thursday, the hour-long talk show featured three voicemails that Te'o claims were left for him last year. Te'o said they were from the person he believed to be Lennay Kekua, a woman he had fallen for online but never met face-to-face.After the first message was played, Te'o said: "It sounds like a girl, doesn't it?""It does," Couric responded.The interview was the All-American's first on camera since his tale of inspired play after the deaths of his grandmother and girlfriend on the same day in September unraveled as a bizarre hoax in an expose by Deadspin.com on Jan. 16.Te'o's parents appeared with him for part of the interview and backed up his claim that he wasn't involved in the fabrication, saying they, too, had spoken on the phone with a person they believed to be Kekua.Couric addressed speculation that the tale was concocted by Te'o as a way to cover up his sexual orientation. Asked if he were gay, Te'o said "no" with a laugh. "Far from it. Faaaar from that."He also said he was "scared" and "didn't know what to do" after receiving a call on Dec. 6 -- two days before the Heisman Trophy presentation -- from a person who claimed to be his "dead" girlfriend.The first voicemail, he said, was from what was supposed to be Kekua's first day of chemotherapy for leukemia."Hi, I am just letting you know I got here and I'm getting ready for my first session and, um, just want to call you to keep you posted. I miss you. I love you. Bye," the person said.In the second voicemail, the person was apparently upset by someone else answering Te'o's phone.The third voicemail was left on Sept. 11, according to Te'o, the day he believed Kekua was released from the hospital and the day before she "died.""Hey babe, I'm just calling to say goodnight," the person on the voicemail said. "I love you. I know that you're probably doing homework or you're with the boys. ... But I just wanted to say I love you and goodnight and I'll be ok tonight. I'll do my best. Um, yeah, so get your rest and I'll talk to you tomorrow. I love you so much, hon. Sweet dreams."Couric suggested the person who left those messages might have been Ronaiah Tuisasosopo, a 22-year-old man from California, who Te'o said has apologized to him for pulling the hoax."Do you think that could have been a man on the other end of the phone?" she asked."Well, it didn't sound like a man," Te'o said. "It sounded like a woman. If he somehow made that voice, that's incredible. That's an incredible talent to do that. Especially every single day."Tuiasosopo has not spoken publicly since news of the hoax broke. The Associated Press has learned that a home in California where Te'o sent flowers to the Kekua family was once a residence of Tuiasosopo and has been in his family for decades.Also on Thursday, the woman whose pictures were used in fake online accounts for Kekua said Tuiasosopo confessed to her in a 45-minute phone conversation as the scheme unraveled.Diane O'Meara spoke with The Associated Press in a telephone interview. She said Tuiasosopo told her he'd been "stalking" her Facebook profile for five years and stealing photos.O'Meara's attorney, Jim Artiano, said they had not decided on whether to take any legal action.The 23-year-old O'Meara, of Long Beach, Calif., said she knew Tuiasosopo from high school and he contacted her through Facebook on Dec. 16. She said that, over the next three weeks, Tuiasosopo got in touch with her several times, attempting to get photos and video of O'Meara. She said he made up a story about wanting them to help cheer up a cousin who was injured in a car crash.O'Meara learned her identity had been stolen on Jan. 13 when she was contacted by Deadspin.com.The next day she got in touch with Tuiasosopo."When I contacted Ronaiah I got a very bizarre vibe from him, he became very nervous, he wasn't asking the questions I expected. He was asking Who contacted you? What did they say?'" O'Meara said.Later that day, he confessed, O'Meara said. She said she asked Tuiasosopo why he didn't simply stop the hoax."He told me he wanted to end the relationship," O'Meara said. "He said he wanted to stop the relationship between Lennay and Manti, but Manti didn't want Lennay to break up with him ... He said he tried to stop the game many times."When news of the hoax broke a few days later, O'Meara said she received a text from Tuiasosopo asking her to call him as soon as possible. O'Meara said she didn't respond.
This felt like a step backward for Jimmy Garoppolo.
The preseason had been shaping up so nicely for him, too. He'd be able to ride the wave of momentum following his strong performance last week against the Bears, and carry that into Carolina, where he would take on a very good defense on the road. What better way to simulate what he'll see in Week 1 of the regular season in Arizona?
Then something happened. Garoppolo, who looked cool last week at Gillette Stadium, seemed rattled by the Panthers defense. The quarterback who hadn't turned the ball over all preseason very nearly gave it away twice. Whereas he made calculated risks in the red zone last week, this week there were head-scratchers in the same area.
"Ups and downs," said Garoppolo, who beat the Panthers, 19-17, and finished the game 9-for-15 for 57 yards. "Just little things here and there we need to get corrected. We’ll take care of it."
Garoppolo's first third-down throw foreshadowed what was to come for the Patriots on third down Friday night. He threw what should have been an easy interception for linebacker Luke Kuechly when there was a miscommunication between him and receiver Julian Edelman.
Edelman stopped and turned for a pass a few yards off the line of scrimmage. Garoppolo targeted him as though he was still moving, hitting Kuechly between the numbers at the Carolina 12-yard line.
The team started the night 0-for-7 on third down.
"It’s my fault. I can’t put it in the linebacker’s hands like that," said Garoppolo, who insisted splitting reps in practice wasn't to his detriment. "It’s just bottom line. Just got to be smart. It’s tight windows, tight throws. Just got to finish with touchdowns."
Later in the game, Garoppolo didn't recognize a Panthers pressure, he took a glancing blow from a defender and escaped the pocket. Rather than throw the football away, he tried to make a positive play and was stripped from behind by linebacker Thomas Davis.
Patriots running back James White was there to pounce on the ball, and Garoppolo was fortunate to escape with his turnover column clean.
Still, Garoppolo knows there are adjustments to make. In order to give the Patriots a chance to beat the Cardinals in Week 1, he'll probably have to play better than he did on Friday.
“We’ll do our best to get in there,” Garoppolo said. “We have two weeks until then and we’ll work. There’s little things here and there. Overall, there’s some good things that we did tonight.
"We just have to get the little things corrected or they’re going to bite us in the butt. We’re going to work our tails off to get to that point. We’ll get there.”
CHARLOTTE – D.J. Foster began making his case to stick on the Patriots’ 53-man roster Friday night against the Panthers.
An undrafted pass-catching back from Arizona State who’d missed almost all of training camp with an unknown injury was pretty persuasive. He caught three passes for 33 yards, showing nice burst, carried twice for 9 and returned a punt for 16. He saw his action late in the third with fellow rookie Jacoby Brissett in at quarterback.
Foster punctuated his first reception – an 11-yard screen that Brissett (9-for-9 for 85 yards and a touchdown) – by lowering his shoulder and delivering a blow that Foster said he wanted to “get that adrenaline going.”
“It felt great,” said Foster. “It had been a long time. I was telling some guys, that was the first time I’d gotten hit since college. It felt good to get back out there. The coaches gave me a chance to get out there and show what I could do.”
James White will be the Patriots sub-back (or third down back or pass-catching back or whatever you want to call him) until Dion Lewis returns from his knee malady. But Foster showed the acceleration and quickness that made him such a productive player for the Sun Devils. With 222 receptions for 2,458 yards and another 2,355 on the ground, Foster would fit nicely in an offense like the Patriots that uses the short and intermediate passing game so well.
He hasn’t had much chance to make a case to stick and the Patriots – with White, LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney, Brandon Bolden and Joey Iosefa all in the mix – may have to take their chances with releasing Foster and hoping he goes unclaimed so New England can bring him back for their practice squad. It’s a risk, but other teams are encountering the same issues at cutdown time. Do they pluck a player they passed on in the draft and put him on their roster ahead of players they’ve been working with since the spring?
Bill Belichick wasn’t effusive in his praise for Foster but did indicate it was a good opportunity to at least see him in game action.
“We played a couple of guys that haven’t gotten much playing time so we got a chance to look at them,” he explained. “D.J. is one of those so we wanted to give him a few opportunities to handle the ball because he hasn’t done it this year. I thought he did some good things. There are a couple of things that he could do a little better but we’ll look at the film and see how it goes. He did a couple of things with his chances out there.”
To make the most of those chances, Foster said he avoided getting too hyped before getting on the field.
“Just keeping my calm and hearing the playcall and just doing the mechanics and all the fundamentals of being in the backfield (was the focus),” said Foster. "Coach Ivan (Fears, running backs coach) did a great job of keeping me mellow. I felt healthy, I felt really good. I got some punt returns, some kick returns, some special teams. I was seeking contact to get that adrenaline going.
“It’s a long process,” he acknowledged. “Talking to the veteran guys, they said it’s a long process. I knew battling my injury and come back healthy, I came back strong and I felt ready.”
We’ll see if it’s enough to carve out a niche on the roster. The cutdown to 75 players comes Tuesday.
Logan Ryan, Devin McCourty and Duron Harmon, all Rutgers alumni, brought a smirk to Bill Belichick's face. Also, Mike Giardi and Tom E. Curran analyze Jimmy Garoppolo's peformance