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 SAN DIEGO (AP) - Manti Te'o hopes he's given the boot to a walking boot he's worn on his sprained right foot since Aug. 9, the day after the San Diego Chargers' exhibition opener.
The rookie linebacker was out of the boot Tuesday, although he hasn't been cleared to practice.
``It's a big step for me to take that boot off and see where it goes from there,'' Te'o said. ``It's a boost of confidence. Taking the boot off shows that it's getting better, so I'm really excited about it.''
Te'o fared better than wide receiver Dan DePalma, fullback Chris Gronkowski and wide receiver Mike Willie. Those three were placed on injured reserve to reach the roster limit of 75.
DePalma and Willie were hurt in Saturday night's exhibition victory against Arizona. Gronkowski had been out with an ankle injury.
Te'o said it's up to the trainer to decide if the boot's off for good.
``Yeah, it feels good enough for me to take it off and walk around,'' said Te'o, the Heisman Trophy runner-up last year. ``It's up to him if he wants to put it back on.''
Te'o said he wore the boot at all times, except when sleeping.
``It was hurt bad enough to hold me out for three preseason games,'' said Te'o, who was in for nine plays in the exhibition opener. ``I think that's pretty big.''
The Chargers finish their exhibition season Thursday night at home against the San Francisco 49ers.
Will he be good to start the season opener Sept. 9 at home against Houston?
``In my mind, yes. My mind would tell my body what to do.''
Rookie coach Mike McCoy said Te'o ``was just kind of really getting a good feel without the boot'' on Tuesday.
McCoy's not ruling anything out about Te'o's availability for opening night.
``That's going to be up to how his body recovers the X number of days before the game on Monday night,'' the coach said. ``We'll want to have an idea of how he feels, obviously. He knows his body better than anybody else.''
How far behind is Te'o?
``Mentally, he's been into it. It's just the reps, really,'' McCoy said. ``I can't really put a percentage or a number on it exactly. He's been at every meeting, he's been at every practice, he's been at every walkthrough, watching and doing what he can do, just getting the mental part of it, so really it's just the physical part of it.''
The Chargers will hold a walkthrough Wednesday on the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, their final practice before facing the 49ers.
McCoy was born in San Francisco and was a 49ers fan.
``I grew up watching some of the greatest quarterbacks of all time playing the game, whether that was Steve Young, Joe Montana and a bunch of other great players; Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott,'' said McCoy, who played quarterback at Long Beach State and Utah. ``I could go on and on with all the Super Bowls they were winning back then.''
However, when asked if he remembered the score of Super Bowl XXIX, he said: ``No, I do not.''
It was San Francisco 49, San Diego 26 in the Chargers' only Super Bowl appearance.
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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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