Posted: 11:15 a.m.
Bengals rookie linebacker Rey Maualuga hasn't been back to American Samoa since he was three years old and he admits that it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas as he begins to think about Sunday's 15-hour plane flight to his ancestral home for a week-long visit.
Among the plans for the trip with fellow Samoan teammates Domata Peko and Jonathan Fanene are visiting areas devastated by last year's tsunami and talking to the children in the high schools in the capital of Pago Pago. But for Maualuga it is also a trip to immerse himself in his family. His father died early in 2006 after a battle with cancer and he hasn't seen his brother Rodney since the funeral.
"I'm looking forward to reconnecting with my father's side of the family," Maualuga said Saturday night. "A lot has changed in four years, but family is something that doesn't change and I know I have a lot of cousins there."
Maualuga felt it is important enough of a trip to postpone by a week checking himself into the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, Calif. ESPN reported Sunday morning that Maualuga is going to spend 30 days in the alcohol treatment center in the wake of his guilty DUI plea earlier this week.
It is believed he'll be back to Cincinnati in time for the March 29 start of the offseason conditioning program. On Saturday, Maualuga said he made a bad decision and indicated he's going to make some changes.
"I think underneath we're all the same even though some of us are professional athletes," Maualuga said. "We all like to have a good time in some way or the other, but I made a bad decision getting behind the wheel."
He said he's been inspired by Peko's story of listening to former Titans and Redskins defensive tackle Joe Salave'a's talk to his high school and wants to make an impact when they visit this week.
"I want them to see me and let them know if I can make it, anyone can make it," Maualuga said.