Speaking with reporters for the first time since being placed on injured reserve Nov. 3, Devin Asiasi reflected on the tragic event that prompted him to spend a portion of his rookie season away from the New England Patriots.
Ueta Savelio Muasika Jr., a close friend whom Asiasi viewed as a “big brother,” was shot and killed Oct. 30 in their native San Mateo, Calif. He was 30 years old.
Upon learning of Muasika’s death, Asiasi was ruled out of the Patriots’ Nov. 1 game against the Buffalo Bills for personal reasons. Two days later, the team moved the first-year tight end to IR, which allowed him to grieve at home with his family.
Asiasi became visibly emotional Friday when asked about Muasika and his time away from the team.
“It’s not something I really want to go into,” Asiasi said. “This is such a sensitive topic. But (Muasika) was a great man to me. He was a very close family member to me. I considered him a family member because we were all in the same community. We all grew up with each other. I’ve known him as damn near a big brother to me. So it was like, it’s all of us, growing up where I grew up. He was just a hard-working man, an inspiration to all of us, in my neighborhood, in my city of San Mateo.
“The situation is just tragic. It’s just something I would never ever want to relive ever in my life. I know he’s in a better place. He’s in a better place and that’s my peace with it. On top of that, I don’t want to add on top of it, but his father also passed away a couple of days ago. So I just want to send my prayers once again to my family back home and the Muasika family back home in San Mateo. I’m always thinking about you all and I’m always praying for you, always here for you.”
Asiasi, a third-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft out of UCLA, said being home “definitely helped me as far as coming to peace with the whole situation.”
“But the whole thing is a tragic situation,” he added. “So it’s kind of hard, dealing with it, to be honest. It is what it is. I’m focused on the season. I’m focused on the rest of the season right now and finishing strong and whatever comes after that comes after that and I’m ready for that.
Asiasi was asked whether his time away set him back from a football standpoint.
“Not really,” he replied. “At that point, I was just really focused on my family. Not to say that I wasn’t focused on the team. But the incident that happened, just something that really hit close to home. So I think I took that time away to really handle my family situation. But now I’m focused and getting ready to get back on that field more and more and help this team get more wins.”
Asiasi returned to practice Nov. 25, rejoined the 53-man roster Dec. 10 and was back in the lineup last Thursday, playing 23 snaps in a loss to the Los Angeles Rams and seeing his first NFL target. He has yet to catch a pass in six appearances.
With starting tight end Ryan Izzo on IR and unavailable for at least the next two weeks, Asiasi and fellow 2020 third-rounder Dalton Keene both should see significant playing time as the regular season winds down.
“I think it’s our job to step up and be reliable on the team,” Asiasi said. “Ryan’s out, so we’re down a guy. So we know we’ve got to make up for being down one man. We’ve got Dalton and (fullback) Jakob (Johnson) with us. I think it’s about us just going out there and executing, not doing anything special, not doing anything too crazy. Just going out there, knowing our assignments, everybody doing their job and then executing the way we know we can.”