Riding with … Asante Samuel   

Updated: July 17, 2007, 3:04 PM ET

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Riding With Asante Samuel

MIRAMAR, Fla. -- Professional athletes have a special relationship with their cars.

Some treat their cars better than their wives or girlfriends. Some are more loyal to their cars than their teams.

We at Page 2 decided to explore athlete-car relationship with a new, occasional series called "Riding With," which can best be described as MTV's "Cribs," but in the car.

The concept is simple: We ride somewhere with a notable sports figure in his or her car. While we ride, we interview, asking typical and not-so-typical questions. We talk politics, relationships, sports and pop culture. And at some point, the athletes explain what their $10,000 rims say about them.

Our first guinea pig was New England Patriots cornerback Asante Samuel, who despite co-leading the NFL in interceptions is embroiled in a testy contract situation with the team.

Samuel is expected to hold out as long as necessary. With the 49ers rewarding cornerback Nate Clements with an eight-year, $80 million contract, including $22 million in guaranteed money -- by the way, Clements had three interceptions in 2006, and Samuel had 10 -- things could get ugly between Samuel and the Pats.

Samuel, like many pro athletes, has a car jones. He's got four vehicles, one of which he calls a "donk," -- a convertible, 1975 Caprice Classic that has an ostrich top and chrome rims with tiny crucifixes as spokes (those are called "blessings").

Unfortunately, the South Florida rain prevented Samuel from taking the convertible Caprice. We had to suck it up and ride in the '07 Benz.

Nevertheless, we found out a lot of interesting things about Asante: (1) He's not calling Pacman Jones during his holdout; (2) He's dangerous with a needle and thread, and not because he can make a mean quilt; (3) Tom Brady wasn't real happy with him his first training camp with the Patriots.

Jemele Hill: OK, let's start with the No. 1 question everyone wants to know: Will you be in training camp?

Asante Samuel: I already made my statement, and I'm going to stand on that. We'll see how it works out.

You've faced a lot of criticism because you said that you were going to sit out until the 10th game. You might be trying to get what you're worth, but does it bother you that everyone perceives you as selfish or greedy?

Doesn't bother me at all because some people don't understand the business side of it. They don't understand what I'm really going through. They see the money I'm supposed to be getting and say, "Wow, that's a lot of money." But they don't know I could have went out and got three to four times that. They just don't understand that.

Could you really go a season without getting paid?

Yeah. This is a business. I'm standing up for what I feel is right. It's like when people go on strike. They're standing up for what they feel is right. I just want to be appreciated for what I do.

Nate Clements got an eight-year, $80 million deal. Dre Bly, five for $33 [million]. Nathan Vasher, $14 million in guaranteed money. What kind of deal are you hoping to get?

Me being a professional and understanding the business, I'm just looking for something that's fair for both of us. I'm a free agent next year. Maybe my demands will be the same. Maybe they'll be more. I don't know.

Is the franchise tag fair to players?

I think it says a lot about that player, but I don't think it's the right thing for players. Just let them be free if you didn't want to sign them. Let them go on with their career.

If you came from Florida State, Florida or Miami, would people perceive your issues with New England differently?

I think people used to use that when I first got into the NFL. Oh, he's a fourth-round pick. He's not a star. I'm in an elite class in my position. I think all of that has pretty much gone out of the way. A lot of people think I'm doing the right thing and should get what I deserve. I'm going to stand strong.

If you do hold out for a long time, how long before you call Pacman Jones and go to the strip club?

I'm just going to be laying low, relaxing and spending time with the kids. I'm going to watch my little man [son] play football.

So who's better: you or Champ Bailey?

[Laughs] You know me, I think I'm better hands down. Me being a competitor, I'll never say any man is better than me. I think I'm the best out there. My play speaks for itself. I don't go around bragging about it. I let you guys talk about it. And you guys say I'm up there.

Are there any quarterbacks you like to see coming? One you feel you can get the best of?

That's a hard one. I've picked off a couple people. Anybody can be hot on their game any day. I don't want to just say, "I want this guy," and I play against this guy and he goes out and has a good day. Whoever I got next, I'm happy to see them.

I read that your first training camp you had 18 picks. Was Tom Brady pissed at you?

Yeah. He's a competitor. I love Tom Brady. Yeah, he was pissed. Every time I picked him -- and all 18 weren't him -- you could see the competitiveness, how mad he is.

What should Tom Brady name his baby?

I have no idea. Some rich, famous name.

What did you think about Tom Brady's personal life becoming such a big deal? Did you guys ever make fun of him?

I don't really read the paper much and get into that stuff. But coaches and my teammates, they'll see something in the paper and they'll hang it up in the shower or something. It might be him modeling, doing a Gap ad or something. It's kind of funny.

Is Tom Brady the biggest player in the NFL?

[Laughs] Yeah, he's got it going on.

How good of a relationship do you have with Tom Brady?

We've got a pretty good relationship. He's a competitor, and I'm a competitor. When we're out there practicing as a team, we're just trying to get each other better. He's trying to figure out a way to catch a ball on me, and I'm trying to figure out a way to pick him off.

In your opinion, did Roger Goodell handle the Pacman Jones situation fairly?

It's not really my situation, but looking at it, I think it's kind of harsh. But he'll bounce back and keep it moving.

As a player, are you fearful even the slightest misunderstanding could cost you?

No doubt about it. Me being an athlete, any little thing … people want what you got. They want your money. They just want to see you go down. You always have to watch your back and watch yourself.

You led your high school baseball team in home runs. How much baseball do you watch these days?

I watch a little bit. I watch more and more with my son. He plays baseball also. In high school, I used to watch it a lot.

Are you more likely to believe Barry Bonds took steroids or that Michael Vick was involved in dogfighting?

I don't know, man. I can't speak on it. I don't know what's going on in those guys' lives. I can just worry about mine. Best of luck to both of them.

Do you think the media has been fair to Michael Vick?

He's a big-name athlete. It comes with the territory. They're going to want to do a story on you. They're going to want to make you look bad. It sells papers. He has to watch what he does.

Speaking of trying to make you look bad, the media has had a field day with that tattoo of yours: "Get Paid."

Actually, they got it wrong. It says, "Get Rich To This." Gnarls Barkley came out with a song, "Get Rich To This." I take it to mean that whatever you're doing -- and it's not just about making money -- just get rich to this. You're doing your best. You're going all out. You want to succeed and do the best you're doing.

Name the last good movie you saw.

I'm just finally watching "The Passion of the Christ." I saw about 20 minutes of that. So I guess you could say that.

Name the last bad movie you saw.

The last terrible movie I saw … I'm not a big movie person. It's probably something [former Central Florida teammate and roommate Elton Patterson] EP made me watch. It was "Super Troopers."

Since you're not a big movie guy, how do you entertain yourself?

We play Madden a lot. We hang out. We go out and enjoy ourselves. But mostly, we get up, work out in the mornings. We come home, take a shower, sleep and then it's nighttime.

You like gadgets?

Not really. I'm a laid-back guy. I'm just chilling.

So, you don't have an iPhone?

Nah. I probably won't get it until it's two or three years old.

So where do you keep your two Super Bowl rings?

I keep them in a hidden spot in the house. Nobody can find them. I didn't have a safe in the house, but I will when I move into my new house.

You ever wear them?

I wore them in public one time. I wore them to an event.

What did it feel like to win that first Super Bowl ring?

Being a rookie, you don't really understand. The second one, you know what it's all about.

Does that AFC Championship Game against the Colts still linger?

Yeah, man. It was tough. It was a tough loss. We had it right there in our hands. We just kind of broke down somewhere.

The Patriots spent a lot of money this offseason. When you see that, does a part of you wonder, "OK, where's my money?"

That goes along with feeling underappreciated. You want to take care of somebody that's been there four years and you won Super Bowls together. But it's a business and life goes on.

I read you talked to Deion Branch, who went through a similar situation with the Patriots. Was he helpful? Did he give you any advice?

Definitely. We talk once a week. He's been through the situation. He knows how it is. He didn't tell me what to do. He just said whatever you do, you do. Just stay strong.

What quarterback in NFL history would you most love to intercept?

I got two favorite quarterbacks. Joe Montana and Steve Young. I'd love to pick one of them off. I used to love watching them because I was a quarterback in high school. I used to watch them and try to learn how to be a good quarterback. Those two were my role models.

Despite all the picks you've had, you don't really take it to the house much. What's up with that?

Actually, I got a record in the NFL for taking it to the house [career playoff touchdowns on interception returns]. I'm tied with, I forgot his name [Willie Brown]. I think I got one or two in the regular season. We'll see how it goes. Hopefully, I'll get some more.

How difficult is it trying to pick off a pass and score?

It depends. If you pick off a short pass and you're just running straight, it's simple. But if you pick it off and you have to make a couple people miss, it's hard. When you pick it off, everybody is trying to block somebody.

Hillary, Obama or Rudy Giuliani?

Wait, is this going to be on the record?

Why do athletes hate answering political questions?

I guess we just don't want to say the wrong thing.

Any other hidden talents besides Madden?

I can play pool. I used to cut hair in middle school. I was the man. The garage was the barbershop. Five dollars. In fact, a couple of you guys out there still owe me money.

Were you doing the stair-step fades, or the Kid 'N Play haircuts?

That was a little before my time [laughs]. Naw, I just did the regular. I did fades. Low cuts. I also did tattoos.

Really?

In middle school. I did a couple of those. Did some for myself.

I take it you weren't licensed?

No license. I don't think they can sue me now.

How did you do it? Did you have a needle?

A needle and thread. You sterilize the needle. Thread it up. Get some Indian ink. Draw it out and go with the flow.

Somebody was crazy enough to let you do that to them?

That's what I say now. How did y'all let me do that in middle school? I was 13 or 14 years old.

Did you do that "A" on your forearm?

Yep. That's me. This one is never going anywhere.

When your mother saw it, what did she say to you?

That wasn't my first one. My first one was on my chest. I let my friend do it. I got her name on it, so she couldn't get too mad. She was kind of upset, but she couldn't get too mad. I guess she was like, "Awww, that's so cute."

So a guy took a needle and just carved right into your skin?

Sixth grade.

That had to really hurt, right?

So bad.

Hey, you think I can get ESPN to franchise tag me?

You hold out, they might do something with you. You could get a Bentley or something.

Page 2 columnist Jemele Hill can be reached at jemeleespn@gmail.com.


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