Asante Samuel was a four-time Pro Bowler for the Patriots and Eagles, and now he joins Falcons cornerbacks Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes to make that position a strength for Atlanta.
FLOWERY BRANCH — Asante Samuel was impossible to ignore during the Atlanta Falcons’ first full-squad practice this offseason on Tuesday.
Atlanta’s new No. 22 showed he likes to talk, pose and make plays.
“Can I get some action out here?” Samuel called out on the field during the practice as he became impatient for a pass to be thrown in his direction. “Am I out here for my health? I want to show the people what I can do!”
Within minutes he had two interceptions, one against Matt Ryan.
After the first pick, Samuel struck a pose, with his arms crossed. Then he placed two fingers over each 2 on his jersey and proclaimed: “Deuce Deuce right here.”
Samuel was asked after the practice about his call for action.
“And I got some right?” he said. “That’s what you’ve got to do, put the bull’s-eye on your shoulder and step up to the plate. That’s how you get better.”
It was an impressive introduction to organized team activities (OTAs) that left Samuel’s new teammates buzzing and coach Mike Smith smiling.
Samuel, the four-time Pro Bowl pick for the Patriots and Eagles, has joined Dunta Robinson and Brent Grimes to make cornerback an area of strength for the Falcons.
“Asante I thought did about the same thing he has done to me for four years,” Ryan said. “He made a good pick. He’s going to make us better. Specifically I think he’ll make myself and our wide receivers better going against him and Dunta and Grimes every day as corners. It’s going to be good work for us.”
The Falcons plan for Grimes and Samuel to play outside with Robinson moving inside, where he has played previously in his career, when five defensive backs are on the field. Samuel, 31, worked on both the left and right side on Tuesday.
“I have a preference,” Samuel said. “I want to be on the left side. I’m a left corner but I’ll do anything I can to help the team. This is a right-handed league and I want to be where the ball is coming.”
Smith said his staff, including new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, will watch the cornerbacks closely as OTAs continue through June 15.
“It was nice to see Asante out there,” Smith said. “He made a couple nice plays on the right and left side.
“It gives us a lot of flexibility in terms of how we want to line up our players. That’s something that coach Nolan and the staff have spent a lot of time discussing and something we’ll look at very strongly, very closely.”
Robinson said he welcomed the addition of Samuel, acquired by the Falcons from Philadelphia for a seventh-round pick before the NFL draft.
“When I first heard it, the first thing I said is ‘That’s going to make our defense better,’” Robinson said. “This thing is all about competition and that’s what we come out here for. I think having three very good corners is a good problem to have instead of a bad problem. Some teams don’t have one corner, you know what I mean?
“So for us to be in this position I think is a great situation for this team.”
Samuel said “everybody is embracing me well” with the Falcons.
“They love my energy,” he said. “They love my confidence. I love everybody here, too.”
Robinson said Samuel’s “energy” may have surprised some players on offense.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Robinson said. “It makes practice fun. All the talk, all the yelling. I can tell the offensive guys weren’t very used to it. They didn’t know how to take it. But it was a lot of fun.
“You look across the board and it’s myself, it’s Brent and it’s Asante and you’re like wow. If we do what we’re supposed to do, we can be a very dangerous secondary.”
Notes: The OTAs are voluntary. Two veterans, TE Tony Gonzalez and DE John Abraham, did not participate. … RB Jacquizz Rodgers, who wore No. 22 as a rookie last season, has switched to No. 32 so Samuel could keep his familiar number. … DE Jonathan Massaquoi, a fifth-round pick from Troy and Atlanta’s only draft pick who has not signed, participated in the practice. OT Lamar Holmes, a third-round pick, watched as he continues to recover from a minor foot injury that also kept him out of rookie minicamp.