FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. -- Philadelphia fans infamously booed Santa Claus and yet Falcons cornerback Asante Samuel, a former Eagle making his homecoming on Sunday, has insisted for weeks now that some of the country's toughest fans will cheer him when he and his unbeaten team takes the field as an opponent on Sunday.
"Oh, they better cheer for me," Samuel said. "They're going to cheer for me. Or we're going to have a problem right there in Lincoln Financial Stadium.
"All y'all fans, all I did for y'all, y'all better cheer for me. You know what I mean? Deuce here, got nothing but love for you."
In a session that proved more performance art than interview, Samuel pulled on a helmet in the Falcons locker room to address the media. A carnival atmosphere reigned as teammates watched in amusement and hooted him on.
The four-time Pro-Bowler said the helmet was to help him tone down his notoriously over-the-top personality.
"Got a little personality issue, so that's how I got to do the interviews," Samuel said in response to why he wore the helmet. "I'm just trying to humble myself down. Make sure I don't expand too much. My personality issues are kicking in."
In the weeks leading up to the game, Samuel went to Twitter to tweak Eagles coach Andy Reid over firing defensive coordinator Juan Castillo last week, though Samuel denied that was the case on Thursday.
After Philadelphia traded him to Atlanta in April for a seventh-round pick, Samuel later took exception to comments that were attributed to Reid that he was "in steep decline." When Reid fired Castillo, Samuel, on Twitter, asked rhetorically who was in decline now.
Evidently, word got back to Samuel that in a conference call with Atlanta media on Wednesday, Reid denied that he believed Samuel was in decline.
"No decline in 22, right?" Samuel said, referring, as he often does, to himself by his number. "So we're just going to clear that up."
Of the tweets, he said, "Y'all assume that was about Andy. I didn't say this is about Andy. I just made a quote and then another quote and then everybody said it was for Andy, so y'all did that."
Samuel seemed to take special satisfaction in the idea that the Eagles are struggling at 3-3 and that Reid's move to fire Castillo was somewhat quizzical as Castillo has the league's 12-ranked defense.
"Man, Juan's my guy," Samuel said. "Shout out to you, Juan. Had the 12th defense in the league. Doing a good job, man, as I could see. Just unfortunate he had to resign from his job or whatever. Great guy, man. Work hard. Any coaches out there need another coach, he definitely get the job done."
He added of the Eagles' struggles: "It's kind of hard when 22's not there. You know, 22 keep things going for you. Just got to deal with it. Make your bed, you've got to lie in it.
The Falcons are generally a low-key team and that's how head coach Mike Smith likes it. Samuel has spiced that up a bit. Tight end Tony Gonzalez said the approach works for Samuel.
"That's his way," Gonzalez said. "Now is that my way? No, I wouldn't do that. You know, but that's his way and I've seen that works for him. I've been around a long time. I've seen players that have that swag and they're going to let you know what's on their mind but the thing about him is as long as you back it up and he goes out there and backs it up, then I have no problem. You can say whatever you want to say. Just go out there and be competitive."
In the Falcons' previous game, Samuel had a 79-yard interception return for a touchdown that was critical in a 23-20 win over Oakland.
During his media scrum, Samuel also elaborated somewhat on the circumstances surrounding his trade to the Falcons and how he had some input in his destination.
"Yeah, like I said in the beginning, it was a joint thing, something we all had to agree on together," he said. "I had other choices that I was not going to pick, so Atlanta was a place I wanted to come. They tried not to let me come to Atlanta, of course, but we got it done."
Samuel hails from Florida and he said being in closer proximity has helped him to attend to an issue of a personal nature relating to his mother. He did not want to expound on what that issue was, only saying that she was "sick." Samuel was raised by a single mother and has created a foundation to help other single mothers.
"Very important," he said of being in Atlanta. "Going through a situation in the family. Family is very important, family's No. 1 to me so I got to do what I got to do to help out the best I can...."
"She's doing good," he said of his mother. "She's doing good. She's fighting hard every day. Spirits up, doing good."