Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 1/4/13
FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga.-- When the Atlanta Falcons take the field a week from Sunday in search of their first playoff victory in head coach Mike Smiths five seasons, at least one player will be competing with a heavy heart. Smith announced on Friday that four-time Pro-Bowler and two-time Super Bowl champion Asante Samuel was not at practice all week because his mother Christine had passed away earlier in the week. She had battled ALS and the funeral will be held on Saturday the day before Asantes 31st birthday. Part of the reason why Samuel said he agreed to a trade from Philadelphia to Atlanta prior to the start of the season was to be closer to his mother, who lived in Florida where he grew up. Teammates said at times during the season when they had a bit of a break, Samuel would leave to tend to his mother. Samuel has created a foundation, Bring it Home Single Moms, whose mission is to provide housing, education, support and networking to single moms, according to his foundations Web site. The Web site said the foundations work is inspired by the example of Samuels mother. I can never explain how much I love her, but she definitely knows, Samuel told a Philadelphia television station in February 2012. Im always thinking about, (when) you make a play, you want to get in front of the camera and tell Mom, I love you and miss you. Shes definitely the inspiration of me playing football and I always want to go out there and make her proud. In that same story, Samuel said finances were so tight that his mother lived in a hotel room during his rookie NFL year in 2003 when he played for New England. After winning the Super Bowl that season, he used his winners check to buy her a condominium. The Falcons other starting cornerback, Dunta Robinson, said on Friday that the Falcons had a great deal of empathy for what Samuel is going through when they learned the news. It was tough, Robinson said. Thats hard to deal with. Some guys have lost their mother in this locker room so they understand. So the ones who havent, were here to support him. Whatever we can do to make him feel better, thats what were here for and thats the beauty of a team. Robinson said he had reached out and called Samuel, but hadnt gotten through. Just wanted to let him know that were thinking about him, man, and if he needs anything, we got his back, Robinson said. Asante is I mean, the kind of teammate hes been this year has been amazing, man, so you hate for something like this to happen. I dont know the pain of losing a mom because my mothers still alive, but Im sure its a very painful situation and hes a strong person. Its taken a very strong person to deal with the situation. Our hearts go out to him and his family. Samuel might be small of stature hes 5-foot-10 and listed generously at 185 pounds but he possesses a larger than life personality. During practice, his loud voice with its pointed barbs and outrageous jokes can be heard above all others. Many credit not only Samuels savvy for fishing out passing routes before they unfold, but also for the huge influx of confidence he has brought to the team, helping it to a 13-3 record, tied for the best in the NFL. Safety Thomas DeCoud said the Falcons defensive backs are a close-knit group, often gathering to watch Thursday night NFL games. DeCoud said the way Samuel carried himself, his teammates could not tell the difficulty he was going through. Hes a professional, DeCoud said. He knows how to separate his personal life and his professional life. You guys (in the media) see Asante every day, you would never know that something that big was bothering him. Its a testament to his character as a person.
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Report: Josh McCown has looked better at times than RG3

Mike Trout does David Ortiz impersonation

Suspended Steelers WR Martavis Bryant set to help coach HS football

Tickets for ‘Monday Night Football’ game in Mexico sell out

Kevin Durant says he never told Russell Westbrook he was staying in OKC


God Shammgod hired by Mavericks as player development assistant

Soccer player terminates contract after being attacked by stray dogs

Todd Bowles confirms Ryan Fitzpatrick is Jets starting QB: ‘It’s his job’

Carmelo Anthony shocked Dwyane Wade left Miami for Chicago

Report: David Lee signs with the Spurs

Craig Sager to miss Olympics while undergoing bone marrow transplant

Giants acquire All-Star Eduardo Nunez from the Twins

Vikings QB injured trying to kick open door

Josh Gordon thankful for support from Browns

Report: Seahawks DE Chris Clemons retiring

Denard Robinson blames falling asleep at stoplight for pond crash

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Hue Jackson: Browns will give Josh Gordon a fresh start

Diamondbacks nearing Daniel Hudson trade

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

What would George Costanza have traded to get Bonds and Griffey?

Gabby Douglas can make USA Gymnastics history at Olympics

Week 3 will determine the Big Ten's reputation this season

NFL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Everything that's already gone wrong at the Rio Olympics

Amar'e Stoudemire's presence (and absence) changed the NBA

We asked Team USA: What other Olympic sport would you play?

Why Gary Bettman's CTE denial is cause for concern for NHL

WATCH: Inside the Nike SNKRS BOX in SF for Golden Air Celebration

WATCH: Five other uniforms Chris Sale should cut up

QUIZ: Name every Olympic event in which the USA has never won a gold medal

Five U.S. Olympians favored to win multiple gold medals

WATCH: What teams should join the Big 12?

One Gotta Go: Do NBA players really love NBA2K?

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker