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Asante Samuel aiming for big day in Philadelphia

Asante Samuel aiming for big day in Philadelphia

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) Asante Samuel can't wait to return to Philadelphia with his unbeaten Atlanta Falcons.

The brash cornerback says he still has ``nothing but love'' for Eagles fans despite getting traded to Atlanta six months ago.

``All y'all fans, all I did for y'all, y'all better cheer for me,'' Samuel said. ``You know what I mean? Deuce here got nothing but love for you.''

Samuel indicated that the unceremonious departure still hurts his ego.

After all, he intercepted 23 passes in 56 games for the Eagles, but still was dealt to the Falcons for a seventh-round draft pick.

``Lot of turnovers over there, helped them win a lot of games,'' he said. ``We're undefeated over here, so I'm helping this team win a lot of games, and I'm happy to be here. I'm happy we helped build this team up with the Falcons, you know?''

The four-time Pro Bowl cornerback lost his starting job after the 2011 NFL lockout ended as Eagles coach Andy Reid signed Nnamdi Asomugha as a free agent and traded for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.

Though he openly criticized team management after being forced into a backup role, Samuel said this week that his focus now is entirely on helping the Falcons (6-0) win at Philadelphia (3-3) on Sunday.

Even so, Samuel stirred things up during Atlanta's bye week with tweets that criticized Reid's recent firing of defensive coordinator Juan Castillo.

Samuel, 31, sought to clarify his thoughts with Atlanta reporters this week during a chirpy interview.

The session did not begin until he put on his helmet for the television cameras, copying the diva move that former NFL running back Ricky Williams used with New Orleans in the late '90s.

Samuel clearly enjoyed the exchange, upping the antics by speaking through his chinstrap.

``I've got a little personality issue, so it's how I have to do my interviews,'' Samuel said with a smile through his facemask. ``I've just trying to humble myself down. Make sure I don't expand, you know, too much, so my personality issue is kicking in. Talk to me. What's up?''

- Asked about last week's tweets, Samuel said, ``Y'all assume that was about Andy. I didn't say this is for Andy. I just made a quote and then another quote. Y'all did that, so talk to me.''

- Asked if he appreciates Reid trading him to Atlanta instead of another team, Samuel said that ``they tried to not let me come to Atlanta, of course, but you know we got it done. We got it done.''

- Asked about Philadelphia's fourth-quarter meltdowns on defense and the turnover problems of quarterback Michael Vick this year, Samuel was blunt.

``It's kind of hard when 22's not there,'' Samuel said, referring to his own jersey number. ``Twenty-two will keep things going for you, you know what I mean? That's what you got to do. You make your bed, and you've got to lay in it.''

After the crowd of reporters moved away, Samuel gave a glimpse of his softer side when asked about the condition of his sick mother, whose name he declined to give and whose illness he would not reveal.

But her condition was serious enough during training camp that Samuel had to take two personal days to visit her in Florida.

``I've got to do what I can do to help out the best way I can,'' he said. ``She's doing good, fighting hard every day, spirits up.''

Samuel has run a Florida-based charity - the Bring it Home Single Moms Foundation - for several years to honor his mother's work in raising him as a single parent. The foundation seeks to identify low-income single mothers who need help in becoming first-time homeowners.

``One thing I support a lot is single parents,'' Samuel said. ``They've got the kids of the future, and I want to help out the best I can, (after) going through the situation I went through.''

Samuel's charitable spirit might seem counterintuitive to the personality he shows as a player, but not to Falcons coach Mike Smith.

Smith long ago adjusted to Samuel's constant yelling in practice, a habit the former Central Florida standout brought to the New England Patriots as a rookie in 2003 and continued in Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Samuel constantly challenges teammates and rarely hesitates to point out his own skills, but Smith said it's all in good fun.

``Believe it or not, Asante on game day is a different guy than he is during the week,'' Smith said. ``I've learned that real quick in the six games we've played. Asante is all business on game day.''

Samuel did his part two weeks ago against Oakland, returning an interception for a 79-yard touchdown in the closing minutes.

This week, he was still bragging about the big play.

``Yeah, I changed my name to Pick Six in the offseason, and I got me a pick six,'' Samuel said with a grin. ``Is that what you're referring to? It made me feel good in the Georgia Dome, baby. I've got another chance this week to set it off. Hopefully I'll set it up.''

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Another week, another question mark at quarterback for the Ravens

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Another week, another question mark at quarterback for the Ravens

Lamar Jackson has gone 3-1 since taking over for an injured Joe Flacco as the Ravens starting quarterback, with the lone loss coming in overtime against Super Bowl favorite Kansas City Chiefs.

The offense has been unstoppable on the ground and very hit-or-miss through the air (with more misses than hits). The defense has looked revitalized. The Ravens have dominated time of possession stats, even with Jackson’s fumbling issues.

On the surface it would seem like the Joe Flacco Era is over in Baltimore, as his month-long injury has given way to a new style of football in Baltimore.

That may not be the case, however.

CBS mentioned early in the broadcast Sunday that Flacco had been cleared this past week, and John Harbaugh confirmed it postgame. The only reason Flacco wasn’t active this week was a lack of preparation time; medically, he’s ready to return.

But are the Ravens ready to return to him?

Most fans are probably fully on board with Jackson moving forward. Winning three games and taking an elite team to overtime on the road in the fourth game have a tendency to win over observers. Harbaugh isn’t just a casual observer, however. He has to make the ultimate decision of what will give his team the best chance to keep winning in the next three weeks and make the postseason.

We don't expect much clarity early in the week. Harbaugh has played it close to the vest throughout the last four weeks. In the days leading up to each matchup, fans have speculated that Jackson will remain the starter, and in each scenario, the Ravens head coach has gone out of his way to avoid naming a starter until as late as possible.

On Monday, Harbaugh added some fuel to the fire behind Flacco potentially reutrning to the starting role.

It’s a smart ploy from Harbaugh, as Flacco and Jackson play such contrasting styles that keeping it a surprise is detrimental to the opposing defense.

Anecdotally, it seems like the Ravens employing a rush-heavy attack (they finished two yards shy of a fourth-straight 200-yard game on Sunday) has kept the defense rested into the 4th quarter of each game, which has helped them finish strong prior to the Chiefs game. And the offense, while not scoring as many points as it did under Flacco, isn’t too far behind and has managed to at least sustain drives at a much better rate.

Jackson has played well for an unproven rookie who was assumed to need plenty of development to be an impact quarterback, but that’s still a lot of qualifiers. Even against poor defenses, Jackson hasn’t exactly exploded. The Chiefs game was clearly his best passing performance, and still he was under 150 passing yards, though he did finally have a multi-TD outing.

It’s a unique scenario in which the option that gives the team a better chance to score (possibly Flacco) may not be the option that gives them a better chance to win. Not to mention the fact that Jackson is clearly the future of the Ravens, and playing against quality teams in the midst of a postseason stretch run can only aid his long-term development.

It’s a question without an answer, at least for the next week. But it’s definitely one on the minds of Ravens fans, players, and coaches alike as the franchise enters one of the most significant three-game stretches under John Harbaugh. If he comes up with the right answer, it will mean celebrating in Charm City and Harbaugh solidifying his future with the team. If not, then the Ravens may just barely miss out on yet another postseason, and every option will be on the table for owner Steve Bisciotti.

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Robert Griffin III plays the final minutes of Ravens' OT loss to Chiefs

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Robert Griffin III plays the final minutes of Ravens' OT loss to Chiefs

With the Baltimore Ravens needing to get in field goal position to stay alive in overtime against the Kansas City Chiefs, it wasn’t Joe Flacco or Lamar Jackson under center with the game on the line on third and 22. 

It was Robert Griffin, III. 

It was the second straight week Griffin has had to step in for relief for Jackson following an injury. A hit on Jackson by Chiefs linebacker Justin Houston sidelined the Ravens’ rookie, forcing Griffin to come in at a less-than-ideal time. 

Griffin had no time to work his way into a rhythm or pass time until Jackson potentially returned. His first pass attempt to John  Brown was nearly picked off and his second pass to Willie Snead was incomplete. Following the game, several Ravens players -- including Griffin -- felt Chiefs defensive back Kendall Fuller interfered with the play. 

Moving forward, the Ravens find themselves in a dilemma. If healthy, stick with the young Jackson who won three games in a row and was in the game against the class of the AFC, albeit limited in the passing game, give Griffin a shot who gives the team more options in the passing game or go back to the veteran Flacco for the stretch run of the playoffs. 

At 7-6, the Ravens are holding on to the final playoff spot by the slimmest of margins. Head coach John Harbaugh has an important decision to make before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers come to town next week. 

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