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Manti Te'o: I was the victim of 'someone's sick joke'

The corner of the Internet that pays attention to sports stopped all at once around 4:15 p.m. ET on Wednesday. We all had 3,700 words of impeccably reported insanity to read.

You know what we're talking about if you've read Deadspin's report regarding Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o's supposedly deceased girlfriend. If you haven't read it, we highly recommend doing so.

It didn't take long for an official response to emerge. Te'o released a statement that NFL.com and NFL Network obtained Wednesday.

"This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online," Te'o said in the statement. "We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her.

"To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone's sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.

"It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother's death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life.

"I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends and Notre Dame fans throughout this year. To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been.

"In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.

"Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I'm looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL draft."

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Teo's statement begets more questions. Old interviews that he gave don't quite add up:

Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown also released a statement, via Facebook.

"On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te'o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia," the statement read. "The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax.

"While the proper authorities will continue to investigate this troubling matter, this appears to be, at a minimum, a sad and very cruel deception to entertain its perpetrators."

Manti Te'o, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, led the Fighting Irish defense to the BCS Championship Game. (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)
Manti Te'o, the Heisman Trophy runner-up, led the Fighting Irish defense to the BCS Championship Game. (Michael Conroy/Associated Press)

Everything about this story is confusing and hard to put into context: How "Kekua" and Te'o met, the reporting of their relationship and everything that has happened since. Read Deadspin's account and read the two statements. There are many confusing aspects to the story that deserve explanation before judgments can be made. Decide what you think. Meanwhile, we'll be waiting for more information to come out.

Te'o is entering the NFL draft in April. He is expected to be at the NFL Scouting Combine in February, which might be the next time we hear from him in a public interview setting. This story isn't going away anytime soon.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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