NFL players tracking family in Samoa

Updated: September 30, 2009, 5:09 PM ET
Associated Press

CINCINNATI -- Jonathan Fanene's phone call to American Samoa finally got through on Wednesday morning, ending an anxious night for the Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman. His mother was on the other end. His father was OK, too.

That's all he wanted to hear.

Fanene and two other Bengals players spent a tense night trying to track down family and friends in their homeland, parts of which were devastated by a tsunami. Dozens have been killed and many are missing on the South Pacific islands.

Fanene, defensive lineman Domata Peko and rookie linebacker Rey Maualuga had trouble getting calls through to relatives in American Samoa. All three said that their relatives appear to be safe, but the situation is bad.

"Right now back home, I'm not sure what's going on," Fanene said, tears welling in his eyes. "I talked to my mom this morning. She's doing OK. She said the island is messed up."

After they finished practice on Wednesday, the players went back to trying to get more information about the extent of the devastation, caused by a massive earthquake that sent huge waves at the islands. A disaster official said at least 30 people had died in American Samoa.

When the players saw news of the tsunami on Tuesday, they began calling and texting each other, trying to get information. Unable to get a phone call through to the island, Peko turned to the Internet and social networking sites to get updates from other relatives.

"It was real tough," Peko said. "I couldn't get a call in to Samoa. Everyone was trying to call, so communication was bad.

"I talked to my mom and dad this morning," he said. "They're doing fine. The village I'm from [Laulii] is OK, but our capital has been destroyed. It's under water. But my mom and dad are fine, Fanene's mom and dad are good and Rey's family is good, so that's good to hear."

Maualuga's parents are native Samoans. He was born in Oklahoma and later lived in Hawaii and California, attending USC. Maualuga's parents were trying to get word about his younger brother, who is still in Samoa.

"I have a lot of family out there," Maualuga said. "My little brother is still out there. My mom is doing her best to see if she can get in contact with the people out there. She hasn't had a chance to get through to them. A bunch of people have gone homeless and are stranded. They're still trying to look for people out there."

The three Bengals checked in with each other repeatedly on Wednesday, sharing news, getting updates and offering encouragement.

"They're like my brothers," Maualuga said. "They'll calm me down when I need it. They've definitely been there for me."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press