TAMPA — Barring a plea agreement or dismissal, Aqib Talib's shooting case likely won't be resolved until after the 2011 season, according to his attorney, Frank Perez.
That means only the Bucs —or NFL commissioner Roger Goodell — could prevent Talib from playing in the fall.
"Right now, if I requested a trial, it would be late November at the earliest and most likely it would be next year," Perez said Saturday.
Talib was indicted on charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon for his role in a shooting case March 21 in Garland, Texas. The second-degree felony carries up to 20 years in prison.
Perez has met several times with the Dallas County district attorney handling the case and another announcement hearing is scheduled June 30.
At that time, Perez said he might request the case be set for trial. But he hopes charges will be dismissed and said he will present evidence favorable to Talib.
"I don't like the case if I'm the district attorney," Perez said. "We feel very, very strongly Aqib is going to prevail in this. There's nothing to this case. I can't tell you now, but I'm confident we've got something that's going to turn the tide of public opinion."
Police say Talib tried to pistol-whip his sister's live-in boyfriend, Shannon Billings, with a Springfield 9mm. During a struggle, the gun jammed after it struck a fence and was retrieved by Billings. About that time, Talib's mother, Okolo, 58, arrived at the scene and fired several shots with a .38 Ruger. At some point, Aqib Talib gained possession of his mother's gun and fired two shots at Billings, according to arrest warrants.
Goodell has said players that run afoul of the league's personal conduct policy during the lockout will face discipline after a new labor agreement is reached. The NFL Players Association is asking for an amnesty period for players who found trouble during the lockout.
The Bucs can't have contact with players or make transactions during the lockout. But there's increasing optimism that the work stoppage could end before the July 4 weekend. That's why Perez would like to have Talib's case resolved quickly and said he likely will set it for trial after his meeting with prosecutors July 30.
There are several things working against Talib. He and his mother gave conflicting statements to investigators. In fact, Okolo Talib told police "she did hear a shot and eventually admitted it could've been Aqib who shot," according to the arrest affidavit. She also said that after Aqib "took the gun from her, he chased after Billings with the gun."
There also was a shell casing from the .38 found in the driveway across the street. But Perez will try to put an end to the case this month.
"I probably will request a trial at that time," Perez said. "Aqib wants to put it behind him, but there are jail cases, and since he's free on bond, that could bump us back another year."
It took Goodell a year after Talib assaulted a St. Petersburg cab driver to suspend him for the first game of the 2010 season.
Bucs coach Raheem Morris has said Talib's fate will be determined by the legal system and ultimately by the league office.
Considering the slow progress of the case, and Talib's importance to the Bucs' defense, it appears more likely he will suit up for Tampa Bay whenever play resumes.