FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. Since the Philadelphia Eagles traded him to the Atlanta Falcons in the offseason, four-time Pro Bowl cornerback Asante Samuel has, at times, taken personally comments attributed to Eagles coach Andy Reid about him and struck back.
With the teams set to meet Sunday in Philadelphia, Reid set the record straight in a conference call with Atlanta media. Of particular note was a July 20 blog post in the Philadelphia Inquirer that read, "Reid thought (Samuel) was in steep decline and that his style no longer suited the scheme."
As for the "steep decline" comments, Reid emphatically denied them and cited Samuels 79-yard interception return for a touchdown against Oakland in Week 6.
"I didnt feel that way," Reid said. "So, I mean, and its obvious. You saw the interception he had. He had to run more than 10 yards to score that touchdown and he looked pretty fast doing it. That's not how I felt, no.
The Falcons (6-0) enter Sunday's match-up as the NFL's only unbeaten team with Samuel, the starting left corner, taking on increased importance. In Week 1, Falcons 2010 Pro Bowler Brent Grimes, whom the organization designated as its franchise player, tore his Achilles, ending his season.
Meanwhile the Eagles (3-3) are in a bit of disarray. Both teams are coming off bye weeks, and during theirs the Eagles fired defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.
When news of that broke, Samuel took to Twitter to send some zingers in Reid's direction. "I'm just saying ... Aint no decline over here" and "Sometimes you have to blame yourself. You can't try and always point the figure sic at someone else," Samuel tweeted.
On Wednesday, Reid did nothing but throw verbal bouquets in Samuel's direction. (Samuel is slated to speak with Atlanta media on Thursday.)
"Listen, Asante's one of my favorite guys and Asante's always real," Reid said. "Ive always been a big fan of his so nothing changes there."
Reid also gave some insight into the time period during which Samuel was traded to the Falcons on April 25 for a seventh-round pick. Reid made it seem the Eagles made it known to Samuel, a Florida native, \he would no longer be in their plans.
In the last few years, the Eagles have not hesitated to trade a player within their division (as with Donovan McNabb and Washington) or within their conference (Samuel) to teams with which they might potentially compete for a playoff spot.
"Well, there's a lot of things that go into it," Reid said. "First of all, these guys I've had here, I have a lot of respect for. In Asante's case, if that's where youre going with it, Asante was a big part of our program here and helping us win football games, so I kept open communication with him and talked with him. He wanted to you know, with all of the things -- a part of that was it gets him closer to home with a good football team and a good program. I think that's important.
"So those are little things that go into each evaluation as you go through with the players, Donovan McNabb. So, these kids, you grow close to these kids. I mean, they bust their tail for you. If you can help them in any way during that time, which is normally a tough time for them, then you try to do that. I don't think -- we're all in competition -- we all have good players, so that's how the next guy comes and you expect him to do a good job."
Reid said he always keeps open communication with players "during any trade or readjustment period."
"I talk to the players, I don't just -- in particular the ones who have been with me for as long as Asante had and for as much respect I have for Asante," he said. "So I keep them informed.