Bucs get boost with Talib's charges dropped
TAMPA, Fla. — Only a week ago, new Tampa Bay Bucs head coach Greg Schiano expressed some mild concern about the status of cornerback Aqib Talib and his impending felony weapons trial in Texas.
But Schiano is breathing a sigh of relief now, following news Monday afternoon that the case against Talib has been dismissed.
Just like that, the Bucs have one of their primary performers back in the secondary, along with two new potential impact players in No. 1 draft pick Mark Barron and veteran free-agent corner Eric Wright.
This is no small deal for a team that allowed 30.9 points per game in 2011, the most of any team in the NFL and yielded an average of 394.1 yards per game, third most in the league.
Suddenly, Schiano has plenty of options in his mission of upgrading the besieged defensive backfield of 2011. First, the return of Talib means that Schiano’s experiment in moving 16-year cornerback and team leader Ronde Barber to safety will likely stay on track.
He can afford to have Barber continue learning his new position at free safety, a role Tampa Bay’s 37-year-old Iron Man has picked up seamlessly during off-season workouts. With Barber on the inside alongside strong safety Barron – known for his hard-hitting, aggressive style of play – Schiano can man the corners with two proven players.
Wright, who signed in the off-season for $37.5-million over five seasons, would be able to step into Barber’s old spot on the right side. He comes to the Bucs after spending 2011 with Detroit, where he made four interceptions. In four previous seasons with the Browns, the 26-year-old collected nine picks, for a career total of 13 in five NFL seasons.
Schiano praised Wright, who had missed a portion of off-season workouts due to personal reasons, after a recent workout at One Buc Place: “He's got great body control. Just watching him move, there's no wasted motion, which is critical for a defensive back — especially a guy who moves inside, how fast things happen in there. He's got that quick twitch."
And now he has the player he wanted most on the left side. Schiano has praised Talib during the off-season for his good attitude and hard work, last week commenting that: “I can only judge people since I’ve been involved. I can’t stick my head in the sand, but he’s been extremely focused — and (been) here, doing everything we’ve asked. I’m pleased with that.”
Talib, 26, faced a potentially uncertain future in the felony weapons case against him that was scheduled to go to trial June 25. It stemmed from an incident in March 2011, when Talib allegedly fired a weapon at the former boyfriend of his sister. Talib’s mother was also arrested following the domestic dispute.
There was some question about whether the Bucs or NFL commissioner Roger Goodell would suspend Talib last season. But the decision was made to let the legal system run its course. As a result, Talib played in 13 games last year, making two interceptions along with a pair of defensive touchdowns before getting hurt. He has 17 interceptions throughout his four seasons, with a career-high of six in 2010.
This isn’t the first time Talib has been in trouble with the law. In 2009, he was involved in an incident in which he was alleged to have hit a cab driver in St. Petersburg. A civil settlement was reached and the former University of Kansas star was suspended for one game in 2010.
Now, with his Texas troubles behind him, the Bucs and Schiano are hoping Talib only makes news on the football field.