Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib has been no stranger to trouble over the course of his four-year NFL career. But with his recent legal woes in Texas behind him and the support of new coach Greg Schiano, is Talib truly a changed person? Get Mark Cook's impressions and opinions in this PR Reacts column.
There is an old adage that goes, “Can a leopard change his spots?” In the case of beleaguered Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib, that question has been asked almost since his arrival in Tampa Bay via the 2008 draft, amid concerns about reports Talib failed a drug test while at Kansas allegedly for marijuana.
Since that time there have been a long laundry list of transgressions. From fights with teammates, punching cab drivers, cursing out NFL referees and of course, the most recent – a felony aggravated assault charge in Texas in which Talib was said to have fired a gun at his sister’s ex-boyfriend. Fortunately for the Bucs – and Talib – those last charges were recently dropped by the district attorney’s office, and the former Jayhawk can now get on to doing what he does best – playing cornerback in the NFL.
When new Buccaneers coach Greg Schiano was hired by in January, many felt Talib’s days were numbered, including many local and national news outlets. Lets face it – Schiano is a no-nonsense guy who appears to have little patience for those who aren’t “team first” (see Tanard Jackson, Kellen Winslow). Going back all the way to the NFL Combine in February, Schiano has clearly stated all players – regardless of their past – will have a clean slate. Still many felt it was just a matter of time before Talib became a victim of Schiano’s “house cleaning.”
Now, five months later, Talib – with his legal woes behind him – appears to have either turned a new leaf, matured, saw the writing on the wall, or a combination of all of these, but whatever it is, Tampa Bay’s troubled cornerback has said and done all the right things.
Some of the right things Talib has done include 100 percent participation in the Buccaneers voluntary and mandatory camps and workouts, including putting in time on his own inside the building, staying away from controversy, and recently tagging along with Schiano to visit Pepin Academies in Tampa to visit students who suffer from learning disabilities.
“Coach told me that he was going to come by [Pepin] and get a tour and learn more about the school and I was in town just working out,” said Talib. “So he asked if I wanted to come along. I definitely wanted to come along to see a different learning environment, something I had never seen before, something I didn’t know existed, really.”
According to the Buccaneers Community Relations Department, for over an hour, Schiano and Talib met with school administrators and visited with students attending the summer program, providing a special visit for both students and teachers who spend their days overcoming a variety of educational challenges.
Tom Pepin, whose father, Art, founded the Academies talked about how much it meant to the students who were visited by Schiano and Talib.
“One thing about our students is they are very appreciative, but they don’t get very much,” Pepin said “It’s like when you’re on a meal of McDonald’s and then all of a sudden you’re offered a steak. Today, this is a huge piece of sirloin for these kids, to see them, talk to them. This interaction’s been amazing.”
The impact was also clearly felt by Talib.
“It just speaks [to] the people who are running this school,” added Talib. “They’re doing an excellent job, bettering these kids’ lives. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to do whatever we can do to do our part and help, because this is a really good school. I’ve never seen anything like it.
“It’s getting me really excited in just knowing that I’m blessed to be a Buccaneer and have the opportunity to do what I can do to help. Getting to see the kids, they all have learning disabilities; I have people in my family with learning disabilities and they don’t have a chance to go to a school like this. Like I said before, I’ve never seen [a school] like this before. So just to get to come around and have the chance to help to do whatever we can do, it’s really exciting.”PR REACTS- Cook's Take:
So what does the future for Aqib Talib hold? Can he truly change the perception that he has been building over the last four years? Only time will tell, but it does appear the impact Schiano has had is already making a difference.
Talib certainly has some personal issues, whether it be anger management, a tough childhood or just some inner demons. Who really knows? I was a victim of Talib’s tirades a couple of times last season, the worst being after the win at home against New Orleans when responding to my question Talib told me, “I don’t know what game you were watching. You need to go back and look at the (expletive) film.” But even then, it wasn’t a shouting match or a particularly hate filled answer. It was just Talib being Talib.
Then there were times during open locker room last year when the Bucs’ veteran cornerback could be engaging, funny and then for whatever reason his mood would immediately switch to confrontational. At times Talib was a version of Warren Sapp. But unlike Sapp, who genuinely didn’t care what anyone thought of him, Talib gives off that ever so subtle vibe of actually wanting to be liked – a complete dichotomy of personalities, too complex for myself or the other media members to fully understand.
As stated earlier the impact that Schiano has had on the Buccaneers players – Talib in particular – is already being felt. When researching Schiano shortly after he was hired, talking to former players and media who covered the Rutgers football team, I came to no conclusion on if he would be a successful winning football coach. But the one thing that resonated – and continues even more so now – is that Schiano truly cares about his football players and accepts them as part of his own extended family. Maybe Talib has been looking for that so-called father figure. Maybe like an undisciplined child Talib's outbursts have been a subconscious cry for structure.
There is certainly a chance that Schiano’s legacy won’t include Lombardi trophies or NFC titles, but for players like Aqib Talib, perhaps Schiano’s lasting lessons will occur off the football field and ultimately be more impactful in the long-term, even more than wins, losses, titles and rings.
What are your thoughts PewterReport readers?
Copyright © 2011 Pewter Report, PewterReport.com and Pewter Insider. All rights reserved. PewterReport.com, the official site of Pewter Report, is an independent source of news and commentary and is not affiliated with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers or the NFL.