NFL players given update on situation in tsunami-stricken Samoas

WASHINGTON -- NFL players of Samoan background received an update Friday from the U.S. government and the Red Cross on recovery efforts in the tsunami-stricken Samoas.

"There's a lot more Samoans in the NFL now, and it hit a lot of us, it really hit home," said Cincinnati Bengals defensive lineman Domata Peko, an American Samoa native, following a briefing with Federal Emergency Management Agency and Red Cross officials. "We're real concerned, and we're going to do all we can to raise as much money as we can to help out the people of Samoa."

Peko encouraged people to go to the Red Cross Web site to aid victims of Tuesday's earthquake and tsunami.

Peko is one of five current NFL players born in American Samoa, and around 30 players have ties to American Samoa, according to the league. Peko also is one of three Bengals players tracking down family and friends in their homeland. Peko spoke to reporters along with former player Vai Sikahema and FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, among others.

Sikahema, a native of nearby Tonga, said he hoped to bring a group of retired players to the region in the next week or two.

"We hope to go down there and help rally the troops and rally the people," he said, "because they so highly regard their sons who come and have made a name for themselves in the NFL."

Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Paul Soliaimourned the deaths of at least two relatives in the Samoas this week -- and feared the family toll could grow worse.

David Krichavsky, the NFL's director of community relations, said the league put together the briefing at the players' request.

"At this point, we're assessing exactly what we're going to do charitably," he said.

Also on the call with officials was former NFL quarterback Jack Thompson, a American Samoa native known as the "The Throwin' Samoan."

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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