Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik discussed whether Aqib Talib's arrest will influence the team's decision to draft a cornerback in 2011, and also addressed the recent DUI arrests of members of the team's front office and coaching staff.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Mark Dominik addressed how the felony arrest of cornerback Aqib Talib may or may not affect the team’s draft plans on Thursday, in addition to discussing the rash of DUI arrests that have primarily come from the team’s front office and coaching staff.
On March 30, Talib surrendered to police in Garland, Texas after his alleged involvement in a shooting attempt and was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon stemming from a fight on March 21. When asked if he believed Talib, who was suspended for the 2010 season opener after assaulting a Tampa cab driver in 2009, was going to be suspended for four or eight games by the league as a result of his latest arrest, Dominik was noncommittal.
“At this point, I will reserve any more comments about Talib for the simple standpoint that there is so much to be resolved prior to that,” Dominik said.
However, Tampa Bay’s general manager did reveal that the team would be inclined to take a cornerback in the 2011 NFL Draft regardless of Talib’s status with the team and the league this year.
“For me personally and fundamentally – I’ve stolen this [philosophy] from the Jets because I like to take things that I believe from different organizations that are productive and can help a football team – you can never have enough cornerbacks,” Dominik said. “In the two years that I’ve been here we have drafted a cornerback in every [draft], and I don’t think you can have enough of them. It doesn’t affect me other than it reinforces my opinion that you can never have enough cornerbacks in the National Football League. We have right now eight selections and who knows where we are going to use any of them for what positions, but at the same point, that is a position that I am always going to put high on my priority list.”
When pressed on whether he had to operate as if Talib won’t be able to play some or all of the games in 2011, Dominik said that his approach isn’t unique to Talib’s situation.
“You have to operate as if none of your players are going to be there in a way,” Dominik said. “We got unfortunate news the other day that our long-snapper popped his Achilles tendon. Now how long is he going to be out? (We don’t know.) You have to take the draft as it comes to you and take advantage of the player that you think can best fit your football team – short term and long term. That won’t change regardless of a specific event or a specific person.”
Talib was suspended for the 2010 season opener and E.J. Biggers, a 2009 seventh-round pick, filled in nicely as a starter for that game and was a solid nickel corner until being pressed into starting duty again when Talib was placed on injured reserve with a torn tendon in his hip after the Atlanta game on December 5. Dominik expressed confidence in Biggers, veteran cornerback Ronde Barber, who was re-signed to a one-year deal this offseason, and Myron Lewis, the team’s third-round pick in 2010.
“I felt really good about the play of E.J. Biggers last year,” Dominik said. “I thought he really came on at the end of the season. He actually played really good for us the entire season. He had the pick against Cleveland in the first game that really helped turn that game for us. E.J. played well for us all season long. I thought Myron Lewis started playing even better for us at the end of the season. I think we have some other guys that are battling – Dominic Johnson, whom we grabbed late towards the end of the season.
“We brought Ronde back. Ronde played so well last year. We sat down and had a good conversation and agreed to extend him for a year, which obviously a win-win for both sides. I thought Biggers did play very well for us. There was an article written that he was one of the top 10 corners in the league in terms of yards after pass attempts. He held his own against some of the best [receivers]. Myron Lewis got a lot of experience towards the end of last year. … I feel good about those three players in general right off the bat. Then we have some young corners on this roster, and we may try Vince Anderson out there. He’s played a little safety and he’s played some corner. But again, I go back to my original statement that I just don’t think you can have enough because I respect the position enough.”
Talib was the team’s first-round draft pick in 2008, a year prior to Dominik replacing Bruce Allen as Tampa Bay’s general manager. In his two years at the helm of the franchise, Dominik and his staff have stressed the importance of acquiring high character players through the draft.
“We put an emphasis on team captains, military backgrounds, the interviews that we do here in this building with the 30 guys we choose to come to Tampa Bay to spend a full day with – it’s a big part of it,” Dominik said. “I feel good about Cody Grimm, Josh Freeman and Roy Miller and Sammie Stroughter.”
Dominik said that he has changed the team’s approach to using the 30 player visits prior to the draft to delve into player’s character issues.
“We do a lot of different things,” Dominik said. “When they actually come in the building they meet with a lot of different people and we have different angles of how we talk to them and who handles them in what capacity and [who goes] out to lunch with them. There are calculated things that we try to do with these players to try to get a better feel of what they are about and what they are made of. That’s as good as you can do, and then it comes down to the end of the day – it’s on me. It’s my gut decision of whether I think this guy can be a good member of this football team. There is a reason why we chose – and I was happy John Lynch chose – to introduce our second-round pick. Number one, I happened to be here through most of his career – coming in 1995 – and seeing what kind of guy he was off the field as great as he was on the field. For me it was a chance to build a bridge with some of our alumni that we always want to do. John epitomizes what we want to be as a drafting football team.”
Dominik admitted his embarrassment over the recent rash of arrests, including Talib’s and the DUI arrests of former defensive line assistant Chris Mosely, wide receiver Mike Williams, coordinator of pro scouting Shelton Quarles and Raheem Morris’ assistant, Jay Kaiser, who was arrested earlier this week, within the last eight months. Williams wound up being cleared of all charges.
“There is no debate – it’s disappointing,” Dominik said. “Any time I wake up the next morning and hear about somebody within the organization or on the roster has gotten themselves into a situation like that. All I can say to our fans and [to the media] is we’re trying to do everything to build up this football team and become the team that this town and this community are proud of. We’re going to continue to work on educating even further our staff and our players on the dangers and perils [of driving under the influence]. I’m being honest here – I am thankful that no one has been hurt because that is the scariest thing about that arrest or driving under the influence. It’s what the ramifications could be outside of just that one person, and I’m going to make that very real to everybody within our organization.
“They all pay consequences. I will say that everyone has a consequence and everyone has been dealt with.”
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