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Irish Insights

Associated Press

Kelly says his heart is with Notre Dame

Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly's interview with the Philadelphia Eagles was more about professional curiosity then a serious look to move to the NFL.

Kelly conducted a teleconference Tuesday to address a number of topics since the Irish fell 42-14 to Alabama in the BCS championship game Jan. 7, including his future with the Irish, the Manti Te'o hoax and some personnel matters.

And the coach, who led Notre Dame to a 12-0 record and the No. 1 rankings before losing to the Crimson Tide, reaffirmed his commitment to the Irish. Kelly met with Eagles owner Jeff Lurie and his leadership team the day after the BCS title game.

"I will tell you that the discussion was more about intrigue on my part," Kelly said. "I had obviously had always been in the college game, really did not have a good grasp of the NFL setup and so for me, my head said let's be more informed as it relates to the NFL, but my heart is in college football and with Notre Dame."

Kelly said the Eagles reached out to Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick either the same day or the day after the team fired coach Andy Reid. He said the parties agreed he wouldn't talk to the Eagles until after the BCS championship game, and the meeting was held Jan. 8 when Kelly was in Nashville to accept the AFCA coach of the year award.

Kelly said he did regret waiting until Jan. 12 to release a statement that he wanted to remain at Notre Dame.

"I should have been more sensitive that there was this time period going on and released a statement much sooner," Kelly said.

Kelly said has he addressed the situation with recruits about his commitment to Notre Dame. National signing day is Feb. 6.

"I think the recruits, I tell them up front that I'm committed to Notre Dame," Kelly said. "Flattered that the NFL would want me to be one of their coaches, but it's just not what I want to do. I want to be a college football coach, and really just, was really happy and really impressed that the Eagles would give me the opportunity to sit down and talk with them. Very much appreciate Jeff Lurie for the opportunity. But as I said, it was more intrigue than it was an interest on my part."

Kelly also said he and Swarbrick have been discussing his future deal with Notre Dame since Dec. 6.

"We both want the same thing and that is the long-term consistency of the program," Kelly said. "The best way I could say is Jack and I are in lock step in how we want to continue to build this program. I feel really good about that."

Kelly said he has talked to Te'o since it was revealed that the All-American linebacker was the victim of a hoax in which he was led to believe he had an online relationship with a woman who never existed. The coach said everything that has been revealed about the hoax has been in "lock step" with what Te'o told him when the player first revealed the plot to the coaching staff Dec. 26.

"Everything that he told me, every little thing that has come out over the past couple of weeks is what he told me," Kelly said.

Kelly said he didn't think the hoax played a part in Te'o's performance against Alabama, but the coach also wasn't positive it didn't hinder the linebacker.

"He didn't play his best. Alabama had something to do with that as well, clearly." Kelly said. "I really don't know. That's a lot of weight on the shoulders of somebody. I think we could make a leap that maybe it did, but I think Manti would know for sure."

Here are the personnel matters Kelly addressed during the teleconference:

Jamoris Slaughter: Kelly said the university was still in the process of appealing the decision by the NCAA to not grant the safety a sixth year of eligibility. Slaughter was lost for the season after suffering an Achilles injury in Week 3.

"We're hopeful that we'll hear something before the conclusion of recruiting," Kelly said. "Obviously it's one of those things that everyone wants to know. I know I want to know, the media wants to know, certainly Jamoris wants to know. We just don't have an answer at this point."

Surgeries: Kelly said cornerback Bennett Jackson and linebacker Dan Fox both had shoulder surgeries, and he expects both players to be in "non-contact situations" during spring practice.

Injuries: Kelly said offensive linemen Matt Hegarty, who suffered a min-stroke and had surgery to repair two holes in his heart, should be cleared to return soon, and that Hegarty will compete with Nick Martin and Mark Harrell for the starting center position. … Offensive tackle Tate Nichols (knee) could become a medical hardship case. … Cornerback Lo Wood (Achilles) is "progressing really well," Kelly said. … Safety Austin Collinsworth (shoulder) is on track to return for spring practice.

Middle linebacker: Kelly listed Fox, Carlo Calabrese, Jarrett Grace and Kendal Moore as players who will compete for the middle linebacker positions.

Fifth-year players: While Kelly talked about Fox and Calabrese competing for the middle linebacker spots, he is also aware that those players as well as others still need to be granted a fifth year by the university. "Once we finish up our numbers in recruiting, then we start to talk about our fifth-year guys," Kelly said. "As we have in the past, they'll all continue to train because they're in school anyway and then we'll let them know of our decision as we talk to the University relative to granting that additional year."