Asante Samuel takes umbrage with 'steep decline' comment

Asante Samuel takes umbrage with 'steep decline' comment

FLOWERY BRANCH—Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel wouldn't confirm if he has Oct. 28 highlighted on his digital calendar.

But clearly he has taken note of a newspaper report that Eagles coach Andy Reid felt his skills were in steep decline.

"No comment," Samuel said after Tuesday's practice. "We'll see who's in steep decline."

It was noted that the Falcons travel to play Reid and the Eagles in October.

"We'll figure out who's in steep decline then," Samuel said.

The Falcons sent a seventh-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles to acquire Samuel on April 25. He was signed to a three-year, $18.5 million contract.

Before Samuel gets a chance to settle the score with Reid and the Eagles, he is winning over converts in red and black.

When cornerback Peyton Thompson, a rookie free agent from San Jose State, made a sudden move toward a wide receiver and broke up a pass play, Samuel got excited.

He raced over to praise Thompson for being bold enough to make such a strong move on the ball.

"Yeah, we have to play with cockiness and arrogance," Samuel told Thompson. "That's the way to do it."

Samuel, who can be heard throughout practice encouraging players, taunting the offense and talking about bringing out his own referees to call the receivers for pushing off, has used the tenets of his teachings to become the NFL's all-time leader with four postseason interception returns for touchdowns. He also leads the NFL with 39 interceptions since 2006.

"You have to step on the field with confidence," Samuel said. "Being a little cocky, being arrogant, but being humble at the same time. It definitely is the way to be out there as a cornerback. If you are just out there going through the motions, you're going to have a lot of bad plays."

He sums up his C&A — cocky and arrogant — philosophy this way.

"My thing is that I have to go out there with my little swag," Samuel said. "I've got to look good, feel good, smell good every day and play good. That's how I approach the game."

The Falcons' starters are soaking up all of Samuel's teachings and catchy phrases.

"He's upgraded our swag," safety William Moore said. "That's huge for us. He's a leader back there. He's another guy with dreads back there. We need that. I think it's going to be exciting just to watch him play."

Even owner Arthur Blank got ensnared into Asante's web of excitement. After breaking up another pass play, Samuel yelled out, "All I want to do is make Arthur Blank proud of me."

Blank heard the statement, went over and shook Samuel's hand and whispered something in his ear.

"That's top secret," Samuel said. "That was a classic handshake. That was classic. Just know that."

Falcons defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is just fine with Samuel's cocky and arrogant philosophy.

"But, I would say if he's cocky and arrogant, that doesn't hurt him if he backs it up and he's good," Nolan said. "But there is no question that it doesn't hurt a lick."

With Samuel, Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson, the Falcons hope that the trio of cornerbacks will help dramatically improve their pass defense, which ranked 20th (236.6 yards per game) in the NFL last season.

"I think it's nice that we have three of those guys out there right now and some of the backup guys are doing a good job," Nolan said. "That first group with those three on the field, we'll keep watching to see how they mesh because we'll be looking for a slot guy at some point. Right now, there are just a lot of guys competing for it."

It seems that Samuel has not stopped talking since the trade, and that's just fine with the Falcons.

"Everybody has different personalities. The one thing I will say is Asante is really positive when he talks, and there's not a negative word that comes out of his mouth," Falcons coach Mike Smith said. "When guys are that way, I really don't care that they're talking, as long as they're holding themselves up and holding their teammates up, and that's really what he's doing. He's making it fun, and the guys seem to be enjoying it."

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