TAMPA — Aqib Talib's impending arrest for what police say was his role in a Texas shooting leaves the Bucs at a loss, personally and professionally.
Personally, players and coaches are wondering whether Talib is responsible for shooting at his sister's boyfriend during a domestic disturbance, as alleged by Garland, Texas, police. The police Tuesday issued a felony warrant for his arrest for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison.
The boyfriend was not injured.
Police said Talib is expected to surrender this week.
Professionally, the Bucs are mulling what Talib's potential loss would mean for the organization, of which the talented cornerback is a vital part.
"I think for the people outside of the team, they wouldn't be surprised by this because of his history," said center Jeff Faine, a team captain, referring to several off-field incidents — with teammates and a St. Petersburg cab driver — that have tainted Talib's time with the Bucs since he became their first-round draft pick in 2008.
"But me, I am a bit shocked. At the end of the day, at his core, he is a good person. He's had his issues, no question. I realize that. But it's definitely shocking."
Faine said Talib's problems have been mostly related to controlling his emotions, but the gravity of the shooting allegation still startled him.
Talib's alleged involvement in the March 21 shooting — in which his mother also has been arrested and charged with shooting at her daughter's boyfriend — could potentially end Talib's career and cause the Bucs a setback on the field.
The Dallas County District Attorney's Office will have to decide whether the evidence against Talib is sufficient to take the case to a grand jury to try to get an indictment. That could take four to six weeks.
It's possible the Bucs could release Talib, but that couldn't happen until the lockout is resolved. No roster moves are permitted during the lockout. If Talib is retained, the league could suspend him.
Talib was suspended for one game last season after being accused of punching the St. Petersburg cab driver in 2009.
Talib has been the team's top cornerback during the past two seasons. In 2010 he led the Bucs with six interceptions despite playing just 11 games. Talib has 15 interceptions in his three seasons despite being a starter for just two.
He has been assigned to opponents' top receivers because he is among the best cover men in the game, and his ability to take away featured receivers has been a comfort for coach Raheem Morris.
"I don't know if anybody really needs to say this, but it's almost to the point where Coach Morris doesn't even need to worry about (Talib's) side of the field," Faine said. "He's been beat, of course, but that's because he's an aggressive player. I wouldn't want it any other way."
Talib also missed the final four games last season with a hip injury. Second-year player E.J. Biggers took over the starting role at left cornerback. Rookie Myron Lewis was the third cornerback behind Biggers, and Ronde Barber, who has committed to playing in 2011, turns 36 next week.
Talib's latest legal problems also could alter the Bucs' plans for the draft next month.
The Bucs have spent a great deal of time exploring their options at defensive end, a position that has been considered the likeliest target for their first-round pick (20th overall). But the prospect of being without Talib could influence decisions in the first round and beyond.
Among potential first-round cornerbacks, LSU's Patrick Peterson is the top prospect. He undoubtedly will be gone long before the Bucs select. Prince Amukamara of Nebraska, Jimmy Smith of Colorado and Brandon Harris of Miami could be available later in the first round.
Talib's status will also fuel speculation that the Bucs could make a play for Raiders free agent Nnamdi Asomugha, who expects to be among the most sought-after on the market once the labor situation is settled.
Morris has said the team could be more active in free agency than in the past, and the possible loss of Talib could increase the chance of that.
Also, with the expected return of the salary cap (and salary floor), the Bucs are projected to see their payroll increase over 2010's, which was the lowest in the NFL.
Second-tier free-agent cornerback options include Johnathan Joseph (Bengals), Ike Taylor (Steelers) and Josh Wilson (Ravens), each of whom will command a considerable salary.