Tampa Bay Buccaneers cornerback Aqib Talib had an exceptional afternoon practice on Sunday. The rookie cornerback recorded two interceptions. The morning practice was not as productive for Talib, as he had some rookie inexperience moments. After practice, Talib spoke about his splash plays.
"It felt good to get my hands on a couple of balls," said Talib. "It is over with now, and it is about what you do after that."
The first interception was an easy pick. Bucs quarterback Brian Griese threw well behind receiver Maurice Stovall as he ran an out route. Talib was trailing Stovall, and Griese threw the pass behind and high. Talib jumped to the ball that was chest level, and hauled in the easy interception. Stovall quickly grabbed Talib's jersey and held the corner from returning the ball. Talib lateraled the ball to safety Jermaine Phillips. Phillips ran the ball in the end zone and joined the celebration of hip bumps for Talib and defensive backs coach Raheem Morris.
"[They were both] man coverage," said Talib. "I put myself in good position and I got a ball.
"I don't know [if they would've scored in live football], Mo found a way to grab me but we would've found a way to score."
The second interception came on a pass by quarterback Chris Simms. Wide receiver Brian Clark was running a five-yard cross in the middle of the field. Talib was running with Clark, and Simms' pass was in between them. Talib and Clark both fought for the ball, but Talib wrestled it away.
"Yeah it was where both of us had a chance to get it," said Talib. "I made the play on it."
Veteran Bucs cornerback Ronde Barber had spoken about Talib after the morning practice. Barber told Pewter Report before the draft that he thought Talib was the best cornerback in the draft. The Bucs veteran has been passing on his knowledge and experience to the rookie first-round pick. In Barber's rookie season in 1997, he admitted that he struggled. The Bucs hope Talib avoids that. Barber has used his experience to try and help Talib avoid those struggles.
"Aqib is definitely a different guy than me," said Barber. "Physically, I think he's ready to play. When I came in I don't know if I was necessarily ready to play. His expectations are that he'll play. I think our expectation is that he'll be able to play. I think that was a little bit different for me, but I pass as much knowledge on as I can to Aqib. I tell him about my struggles at the beginning. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but you know, it's my experience and that's how I share it with him. Aqib will be fine. He's a talented player. He'll show up for us."
Barber's efforts for the rookie seem to be making an impact. Talib looked much better in the afternoon practice then he did in the morning practice. Talib seemed to appreciate Barber's efforts to help.
"Yeah, he explained [his rookie struggles] to me too," said Talib. "I had no idea. I didn't get a chance to see Ronde when he was a rookie. I wasn't even watching football, but to hear him say [that physically I can play], I'd say that is a big compliment to me.
"As a rookie coming into this lifestyle and this tempo of football, it is good to have a guy like Ronde to just tell you what he's been through and how he handled situations. You can take whatever you want from it."
Barber said from a talent and depth perspective the Bucs secondary was the best the team has had during his years as a Buccaneer. The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Talib is a part of that, and figures to see a significant amount of playing time as a rookie. He is in contention to win the nickel corner spot, and possibly even the starting left corner spot that belonged to Brian Kelly for years.
Currently, Phillip Buchanon is the starter there. Last year, the Buccaneers nickel corner played 42 percent of their defensive snaps, so even if Talib is the third corner he will play a lot. Barber is helping Talib not only on the field, but also off of it.
"The best thing that I can do for Aqib, is to teach him how to be a professional," said Barber. "Teach him how to come to work everyday, how to treat this as the job that it is, and how to be serious about it. He's young. He's got a lot of opportunity and a lot of money in your pocket, sometimes football doesn't seem like it is what it is. But it is a job, and it is only temporary."
Barber was asked if he has been a good student towards his advice.
"Yeah, he has," said Barber. "Raheem is on him everyday for obvious reasons. We expect a lot out of him. He seems like he is willing to be that guy."
On Monday morning, the Buccaneers start practicing in pads with full contact. Many of the players are itching for that to happen, including Talib.
"Oh yeah, I'm ready to get the pads on," said Talib. "Most definitely, that is real football.
"Every day I'm getting more and more comfortable. Hopefully we can keep improving and get ready for this first game."
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