Not long after the trade shipping him from the Eagles to the Falcons was finalized, Asante Samuel was asked about hard feelings toward his former team.
And Samuel, never afraid to speak his mind, proceeded to say this: Come on, man. You know its always hard feelings, man.
Naw, I was just joking, Samuel answered with a laugh.
Same old Asante.
Same old sense of humor.
I wish Philly nothing but the best, Samuel said. I love that organization and Eagles nation. I know they were sad to see me go. I know everybody cant figure out how this is happening and why this is going this way. Business is business, and life is life.
Samuel spoke with reporters Wednesday in a conference call soon after being shipped to the Falcons in exchange for a seventh-round draft pick (see story).
After recording 52 interceptions and nine touchdown returns in his first nine NFL seasons, Samuel joins his third team in six years. Samuel had 25 interceptions in 61 games as an Eagle.
Im happy to be a Falcon, Samuel said. I know the city is embracing me. Im excited. I know the Falcons already have an excellent team, excellent coaches, schemes and talent. Im just going to add to the bunch to try to get the one common goal.
Samuel, who won a Super Bowl with the Patriots over the Eagles in 2004, is a four-time Pro Bowl pick.
Although he turned 31 in January, is coming off a disappointing three-interception season, has missed eight starts the last two years with injuries and missed out on the Pro Bowl last year for the first time since 2006, Samuel said he still thinks he can be as productive and effective as ever.
Im a confident guy. he said. Im going to always have confidence and thats how I play and how I operate on a daily basis. Im going to come into this thing and be ready to compete. ... Im sure Ill make a big impact, some way, somehow.
Samuel said he spoke before the trade with Falcons general manager Tom Dimitroff, who was director of college scouting with the Patriots during Samuels five-year stay in New England. He said his familiarity and relationship with Dimitroff makes the transition from Philly to Atlanta easier.
I knew he had a lot of familiarity with me, Samuel said. We knew each other. We talked every time that we play each other. That definitely had a lot to do with it. He definitely made me feel comfortable. I also talked to coach Mike Smith.
Everybody is making me feel comfortable and at home. It feels like I have not missed a beat coming from Philly.
Samuels interceptions have gone down from an NFL-leading nine in 2009 to seven in 2010 to three last year.
Hes not a kid anymore, and hes been banged up. Can he still be as effective in his 30s as he was in his 20s?
Youve got a lot of people 30 and 31 and still producing at a high level, he said. I think for the most part, its how you handle your off-season. How you train. How you work on your explosiveness, your technique and your hands. You can just say I need to go out there and be in shape and run 100 laps and run 100-, 110-meter sprints and all of that and say Im in the best shape of my life.
You need to constantly work on your speed, your explosiveness, your hand-to-eye coordination and quickness. Thats how you maintain. ... Im not missing a beat with my explosion, speed and hands. I do a lot of the resistance training with the bands and all that stuff. Those are some of the things that I like to get into.
Samuel will make his Falcons preseason debut on Aug. 9 vs. the Ravens and his old position coach, John Harbaugh. His regular-season debut will be Sept. 9 at Kansas City. The Falcons visit the Eagles on Oct. 28.
The only thing I can say is that its time to go to work, Samuel said. Its time to get to work. Put the pedal to the metal. It seems like a bunch of all-star quarterbacks that we are playing against. So, like I said, we have to get cracking.
What about jersey No. 22? Samuel has worn it his entire career, but Jacquizz Rodgers currently wears No. 22 for the Falcons.
You know Im a deuce-deuce man for life, he said. Im sure the lil homie wont have a problem working it out. You know how that goes.
E-mail Reuben Frank at email@example.com