Thursday, December 5, 2013
Samuel likely to be a pro about snaps
By Vaughn McClure
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Atlanta Falcons veteran cornerback Asante Samuel declined to address the media Wednesday, as he typically prefers to quietly go about his business on a daily basis.
One would think Samuel had plenty to say after watching rookie Robert Alford cut into his snaps at left cornerback last week. Then again, complaining about playing time doesn't appear to be the style of any player inside what appears to be a united Falcons' locker room.
Rookie cornerback Robert Alford has been cutting into veteran Asante Samuel's playing time.
"It's about how you look at it," linebacker Sean Weatherspoon explained. "I think for me, being a four-year guy, if I was in a situation where Coach came to me like that, I would look at it as a chance to rest up my body and to help the younger guys to do whatever they needed to do to go out there and be successful. And I would like them to play as good as I could play or even better.
"Everything's been positive with our team. It's a positive group. I'm pretty sure Asante ... he's a vet. He's being doing this a long time. He's going to get a yellow [Hall of Fame] jacket. He's got a lot of money. He's getting more money. And he's trying to help the younger guys."
The 32-year-old Samuel, who is signed through 2014 and has a $5.125 million cap number next season, hasn't been his usual playmaking self due to a lingering thigh injury. But that hasn't stopped him from passing along his expertise to the 25-year-old Alford, the guy he's competing against.
Samuel remains the only player in NFL history to register at least one interception return for a touchdown in each of his first six NFL seasons.
"He's just told me to stay focused," Alford said of Samuel's advice. "Just focus on my technique and that this is not college. Everybody is good here, and you just have to be on your tip-top game every time you step on the field. And I think that's helped a lot and kept me focused.
"Asante has been around a long time. I used to watch him when he was first into the NFL when he was with New England. So just having advice from him and knowing that he's a future Hall of Famer and a [four-time] Pro Bowler, that's something that I want to be. And I think he really helps me out a lot."
Defensive coordinator Mike Nolan said this is the time of the season where some of the younger players will get longer looks, with the Falcons well out of the playoff picture. In last Sunday's overtime win over the Bills, Samuel started at left cornerback but Alford finished the game at the position. Alford, of course, came up with the key fumble recovery of William Moore's forced fumble in overtime, although Alford caught a lot of flak for throwing a lateral to fellow rookie Desmond Trufant during the play.
Against the Bills, Alford played 55 percent of the snaps (35 of 64) compared to 44 percent for Samuel (28 of 64). Alford's speed and tackling obviously factored into the decision. The previous week against the Saints -- a different style of offense -- Samuel played 93 percent of the snaps (56 of 60) compared to 18 percent for Alford (11 of 60).
Whether Alford starts or plays more snaps against the Green Bay Packers this Sunday remains unknown but it wouldn't be a surprise.
"We're all out here to compete," Alford said. "[Samuel] understands that. I understand that. Everybody in the locker room understands it. Whomever they call up to play, I think we're all behind each other 100 percent."