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Patriots’ Devin Asiasi struggles to deal with loss of friend

Patriots tight end Devin Asiasi has had a tough time dealing the loss off close friend Ueta Savelio Muasika Jr., who was shot and killed in San Mateo, Calif. in October.
Patriots tight end Devin Asiasi has had a tough time dealing the loss off close friend Ueta Savelio Muasika Jr., who was shot and killed in San Mateo, Calif. in October.Stew Milne/Associated Press

As he prepares for the final three games of his rookie season, Patriots tight end Devin Asiasi is still mourning the loss of his friend, Ueta Savelio Muasika Jr.

“It’s not something I really want to go into,” Asiasi said Friday. “He 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.”

Muasika — who also went by the stage name, “JuiceBoi,” as a member of the rap group, Cutthroat Mode — was shot and killed in October in Asiasi’s hometown of San Mateo, Calif.

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Two days after his death, the Patriots lost to the Bills in Buffalo. Asiasi did not travel with the team and was placed on injured reserve later that week. Coach Bill Belichick said at the time that Asiasi did not make the trip due to personal reasons, while his IR designation was the result of an undisclosed injury.

Asiasi has since returned to action, getting activated to the 53-man roster ahead of New England’s Week 14 contest against the Los Angeles Rams. But Muasika is still very much on his mind.

“I’ve known him as damn near a big brother to me,” Asiasi said, his eyes watering. “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.”

While on injured reserve, Asiasi said he spent time with his family, which helped him cope with the loss. He missed three weeks of practice before returning on Nov. 25.

“I was just really focused on my family,” Asiasi said. “Not to say that I wasn’t focused on the team. But the incident that happened, it’s just something that really hit close to home.”

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Asiasi said he does not believe the time away was a setback football-wise and expressed an eagerness to contribute.

Prior to going on injured reserve, the 23-year-old UCLA product appeared in five games, averaging 16 offensive snaps per game. Against the Rams, his lone game since returning off IR, Asiasi was on the field for 39 percent of the team’s offensive snaps. He has yet to record a reception or a target this season.

There may be more opportunity for Asiasi now that starting tight end Ryan Izzo (neck) is on injured reserve and will miss at least New England’s next two games.

“I’m focused and getting ready to get back on that field more and more and help this team get more wins,” Asiasi said. “I’m just trying to know all my assignments, be accountable, be relied on out there on the field whenever my number is called or whenever I’m in the game.”

Xavien Howard has nine interceptions this season, including one in five straight games for Miami, and is making a strong case to succeed New England's Stephon Gilmore as Defensive Player of the Year.
Xavien Howard has nine interceptions this season, including one in five straight games for Miami, and is making a strong case to succeed New England's Stephon Gilmore as Defensive Player of the Year.Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

Miami Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard will be motivating J.C. Jackson this Sunday.

“X is a great shutdown cornerback,” Jackson said Friday. “He’s got nine picks. I’ve got seven. I’m not too far behind. He motivates me to get more picks.”

Howard is the only player in the NFL with more interceptions than Jackson this season. If Howard picks off one more pass, he will be the first player to register double-digit interceptions in a single season since Antonio Cromartie did so in 2007.

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Jackson, who is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game, praised Howard for his ball skills and man-to-man coverage.

“X, keep doing what you’re doing, man,” he said. “He’s setting the standard right now. He’s setting the bar. I’ve got to go get it.”

In addition to Jackson, 13 Patriots are considered questionable for Sunday’s divisional matchup in Miami. The full list: Defensive lineman Adam Butler (shoulder), defensive tackle Byron Cowart (back), offensive tackle Jermaine Eluemunor (ankle), kicker Nick Folk (back), defensive lineman Lawrence Guy (shoulder), running back Damien Harris (ankle), offensive lineman Justin Herron (ankle), Jackson (knee), cornerback Jonathan Jones (neck), guard Shaq Mason (calf), wide receiver Donte Moncrief (thigh), specialist Matthew Slater (knee), running back J.J. Taylor (quad), and running back James White (foot). All were limited in practice on Friday. The team will travel on Saturday.


Nicole Yang can be reached at nicole.yang@globe.com.