Sure, he may have been passed by Ed Reed on the final day of the regular season for the league lead in interceptions. And yes, he did play in the fewest games (11) of any season in his career. But now, as the Eagles enter the playoffs, is what Asante Samuel lives for.
Recently elected to his fourth consecutive Pro Bowl, Samuel has been in the NFL for eight seasons. He's played in the postseason in all eight of those seasons. Along the way, Samuel has lit up the big stage to the tune of seven playoff interceptions (tied with Reed for the most among active players). Four of those interceptions have been returned for touchdowns, a feat that is unmatched in NFL history.
And just like he picks his game up on the field come playoff time, Samuel answered questions from the media Wednesday for what was probably his lengthiest session all season.
"I think it's just understanding the situation and what's at stake and then going out and stepping it up a notch," Samuel said of his postseason success, including his historic record of pick-sixes. "Of course it's a big deal - growing up as a kid, dreaming of being in the NFL, understanding that big time players come up in big time games. That's what I want to be known as. I want to continue that, stay humble and go out there and try to step up in big games."
Because Samuel has that impressive track record, and because he's one of the elders on this young Eagles team, the cornerback knows that it's incumbent upon him to set a good example to his teammates.
"I am aware that young guys look at me and see what I do and see how I prepare and how intense I am in practice," Samuel said. "That's one thing about being a leader, setting an example for the younger guys. So that's what I'm doing. I let them know how important this is and if you lose you go home."
The question Sunday, however, is whether Samuel will get a chance to make a big play. Because Samuel has been so dangerous in his ability to pick off the opposition, opposing quarterbacks have often thrown away from Samuel throughout the season. In fact, according to Sheil Kapadia of Philly.com, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers only threw one of 36 passes in Samuel's direction in the Packers' 27-20 Week 1 victory at Lincoln Financial Field.
"It gets a little boring," Samuel said jokingly. "I'm a competitor, so the main thing is to stay in the game when they're not coming at you at much. Every play I'm telling myself, 'They're coming at you. They're going to throw it at you.' So, I expect them to come throw at me."
Continued Samuel: "Aaron Rodgers is a competitor and most of the quarterbacks in the playoffs are competitors. Competitors want to try to get a competitor, so I do anticipate him trying to come at me some and I'm just trying to prepare as best I can for it."
Samuel also said that the troublesome knee that kept him out of three consecutive games in the second half of the season "feels good" and that he'll be full-go come Sunday. But of course he will, it's the playoffs.
-- Posted by Bo Wulf, 5:04 p.m., January 5