On the night before the season opener against the Carolina Panthers six weeks ago, Bucs coach Greg Schiano passed out black plastic bracelets to players with one word inscribed in white: FAMILY.
Perhaps that patriarchal responsibility steadied Schiano on Monday when he felt a finger being pointed his way over the decision to welcome cornerback Aqib Talib back to the team when Talib's four-game suspension ends Nov. 5.
"Every decision that we make as an organization has one thing in mind and that's what's best for the organization," Schiano said.
"When I say best, it's not just winning. Yeah, that's what we do. That's what you do in this league. There are 32 teams and we're all chasing one prize. But when you're part of a community, there are a lot of things that go into the decision and I can just tell our fans and all the people who care about this is we're going to do what's best for the organization which is going to be what's best for everybody. So you've got to just trust us on this one."
Talib, 26, who has had a long history of off-field issues since being drafted in the first round in 2008, will miss games against the Saints, Vikings and Raiders for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs.
In a statement released Saturday, Talib said he took one pill of Adderall, a stimulant, without a prescription before training camp in August. He is not appealing the suspension, without pay, which will cost him about $500,000.
But all the mea culpas haven't kept the volume rising about Schiano's decision not to cut ties with Talib, who was suspended the first game of the 2010 season for punching a St. Petersburg cab driver a year earlier.
Since arriving in Tampa Bay from Rutgers, Schiano has preached accountability. Before training camp he jettisoned four players who did not fit his definition of Buccaneer men — Tanard Jackson, Kellen Winslow, Brian Price and Dezmon Briscoe.
Unlike those players, who no longer have jobs in the NFL, Talib is arguably one of the Bucs' top performers on defense with 18 career interceptions. He is usually assigned to the opponent's top receiver. He has one interception and seven passes defensed this season.
While this is only Talib's second suspension, Schiano is aware of his history of unsavory off-field behavior: A fight with a teammate at the league's rookie symposium, striking a player in the face with his helmet during a dispute at practice, punching the cab driver and being arrested in Garland, Texas on charges of assault with a deadly weapon which were dropped in June.
With Talib out for the first time this season, the Bucs had one of their best defensive performances in a 38-10 win over the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Talib's replacement, E.J. Biggers, had two tackles and deflected a pass that was intercepted by Ronde Barber and returned 78 yards for a touchdown.
"Yeah, he's going to be back with us," Schiano said of Talib on Monday. "There are no absolutes for any of us in this world. I may not be here when he comes back. How do you know? That's the plan. Yes. And we're going to move forward at that point. But like I say all the time to our team, things change day to day, week to week, month to month. I can't tell you exactly how things are going to be a month from now. I hope that we've won a bunch of games in a row."
Rick Stroud can be reached at [email protected]
Bucs coach Greg Schiano on allowing cornerback Aqib Talib to return after his four-game suspension
Schiano when he accepted the coaching job on Jan. 27, bringing a reputation as a disciplinarian