FLOWERY BRANCH – When the Falcons’ 2011-12 schedule was released Dunta Robinson didn’t necessarily circle Dec. 4 on his calendar. However, the cornerback has spent all season seeking advice about the impending matchup with his former team.
On Sunday, Atlanta plays at Houston where Robinson spent the first six seasons of his NFL career. He signed a six-year, $57 million ($22.5 million guaranteed) free-agent deal with the Falcons last season. Robinson, who still owns a home in Houston, knew the day would eventually come.
“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a different feeling,” Robinson said. “I don’t know what feeling it’s going to be, but I know it’s going to be a different feeling.”
Robinson has sought out current Falcon teammates Mike Peterson (Jacksonville), Kelvin Hayden (Indianapolis) and Ray Edwards (Minnesota) before each faced their former team during the exhibition and regular season.
“I made sure I asked all of those guys, ‘How do you feel?’” Robinson said. “I want to know the feeling to see if it’s going to make me feel any different. They all said the same thing, ‘It’s a weird feeling.’”
While Robinson said he is excited to return to Houston, he’s glad for nearly two seasons in Atlanta before the matchup. He doesn’t even mind the game on the road.
“I don’t know how I would have handled this situation last year,” Robinson said. “It’s a lot easier now because I’m more comfortable in the surrounding, with this locker room, with these players. I could only imagine being there for six years and having to play against those guys last year when I wasn’t fully comfortable here yet.”
Robinson was a key part in the early stages of the Texans, who entered the NFL in 2002 as an expansion team. He still holds the record for most career interceptions in franchise history with 13 and most interceptions in a rookie season with six. He is third on the franchise’s list for career total tackles with 396 and is second in solo tackles with 332.
Robinson said it will be bittersweet to be on the opposite sideline from players such as Andre Johnson, DeMeco Ryans and the injured Matt Schaub – all of whom established themselves in the organization. He still routinely speaks with his former teammates and talked with Johnson several days ago.
“We helped try to build something good for that organization,” Robinson said.
Falcons coach Mike Smith has already met with Robinson to discuss the Texans as the coaching staff begins to prepare a game plan. The conversation occurred first thing Monday morning. The strategy was simple: “Get some good information based on the specific players,” Smith said.
Robinson insists there were no hard feeling when he left Houston and coach Gary Kubiak. He said ultimately his decision to leave was a business decision – for both he and the Texans. Moving on meant Robinson could return to his first home. The drive from Athens, where Robinson played at Clarke Central High before the University of South Carolina, is much easier on his family to watch him play than a 13-hour trek to Houston.
“He’s a great player,” Kubiak said. “He did a hell of a job for me. I respect him.”
Robinson has 37 tackles and an interception this season as the Falcons have won five of their last six games. The Falcons have held the opposition to an average of 14.2 points a game in the past five wins. Robinson has provided veteran leadership to a secondary that is battling some injuries. Safety William Moore and cornerbacks Brent Grimes and Hayden have missed action this season.
“We are just having a lot of fun playing football and we are trusting each other,” Robinson said of the Falcons’ defensive development. “We feel like we have a very good defense. We feel like we don’t have any weak links. We are a little nicked up, but that just means that some of us other guys have to take our game to an even higher level.”
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