PHILADELPHIA – Asante Samuel struts around after making big plays, dances in the end zone whenever he goes the distance and constantly chatters on the field and sideline.

That’s his personality every week against any opponent.

There’s no telling what Samuel will do if he picks off a pass from old friend Tom Brady when the Philadelphia Eagles host New England on Sunday.

Samuel spent his first five seasons with the Patriots and established himself as one of the premier playmaking cornerbacks in the NFL. He knows Brady well after facing him in practice every day from 2003-07.

“I’d see him get red in the face and the neck when I was getting the best of him in practice,” Samuel said. “He’s a die-hard competitor, a true soldier, true warrior, a lot of heart. You love to play with a guy like that.”

Samuel won two Super Bowls with the Patriots and was a big part of their undefeated team that lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl in February ’08. Samuel was an All-Pro that season, but Patriots Coach Bill Belichick let him go in free agency. The Eagles gave Samuel a six-year, $57 million contract, and he’s made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons in Philadelphia.

“Asante was a good player for us, he did a good job,” Belichick said. “He’s found a way down there in Philadelphia. Ball-hawking corner that plays the ball well, reads the quarterback, very instinctive, has a good feel for route combinations, anticipates well, has good quickness and very good hands. He’s around the ball quite a bit.”

The 30-year-old Samuel leads the NFL with 38 interceptions since 2006, including five returned for TDs. He has seven interceptions in the playoffs, and his four TD returns are the most in postseason history.

“He makes a lot of plays, and he always has made a lot of plays,” Brady said. “He’s a great player and I loved playing against him because I thought he really brought the best out in our receivers and our passing game. He’s always a threat to intercept the ball. As a quarterback, you’re always paying attention to those guys. He does it as well as anybody that I’ve ever played against.”

The respect is mutual.

“All he wants to do is win and be perfect,” Samuel said. “That’s what he strives for every day. He’s real close to it. He knows that.”

It’s been a tough year for Samuel on and off the field. He has just two interceptions, including one returned 20 yards for a touchdown in a 21-17 loss to Arizona on Nov. 13.

The biggest reason for Samuel’s discontent was the fact he was on the trading block after Philadelphia acquired two Pro Bowl cornerbacks in the offseason. The Eagles traded for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and signed Nnamdi Asomugha on consecutive days in July, making Samuel the odd man out.

Samuel blasted the front office after the trade deadline passed last month, saying team president Joe Banner and General Manager Howie Roseman were “playing fantasy football with the owner’s money.”

It’s likely the loquacious Samuel will be elsewhere next year. He’s due to earn $8.4 million in 2012 and $10.4 million in 2013.

But Samuel remains Philadelphia’s best cornerback. Asomugha has struggled in a new defensive scheme and injured his left knee during practice Thursday. Rodgers-Cromartie has had trouble adjusting to playing a new position and has been sidelined with an ankle injury.

The Eagles had no comment on the extent of Asomugha’s injury, and a team spokesman said his status would be updated today.


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