TAMPA — When the NFL's new collective bargaining agreement was ratified Thursday, commissioner Roger Goodell scored a victory that could impact Bucs standout CB Aqib Talib.
Goodell will retain his authority to discipline players at his discretion for off-field behavior, perhaps even for players' conduct during the NFL lockout. In the past, Goodell has issued suspensions for arrests even before cases were adjudicated. Talib was suspended for one game last season by the league after a 2009 arrest resulted in a deal with prosecutors.
Talib, 25, was one of a handful of players arrested during the league's 4½-month work stoppage and faces a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Garland, Texas. His trial is set for March, after the season. It was expected the NFL Players Union would challenge Goodell's wide latitude on discipline, but Goodell and the league showed no intention of backing down on the issue.
"I'm not going to hand off the brand … of the NFL to somebody who is not associated with the NFL," the commissioner said Wednesday during a visit to the Carolina Panthers' training camp. "I promise you that."
The Bucs had been privately expecting this outcome during final CBA negotiations, though it's still unclear when and if Goodell will act.
Isn't that SPECIAL: It might not be the most talked-about portion of training camp, but the Bucs held a special teams-only practice Thursday, giving new special teams coach Dwayne Stukes a chance to carry the philosophy of his predecessor.
Rich Bisaccia, who oversaw the special teams for nine seasons, left this year after accepting the same post with the Chargers. But Stukes was a longtime understudy and wants to maintain the same mind-set.
"I actually worked for Rich for six years," Stukes said. "I know I'd been assistant secondary coach the last two years, but I never left my true home in special teams. I learned a lot from Rich and the base and foundation was already planted."
Bisaccia repeatedly used a phrase that's still commonly heard around One Buc Place.
"Rich always emphasized that (special teams) is going to start the game and we're going to end the game," Stukes said. "Special teams is going to play an integral part. That's why he always used the term 'We-fense.' It's not offense. It's not defense.
"It's a combination of guys coming together trying to build a unit, and he always emphasized the little details. He always talked about our unit staying strong and being one of the best in the NFL, and that's what I took from him."
WAIT OVER: Veteran players who signed contracts since the end of the lockout finally were able to practice for the first time after 4 p.m. Thursday, after the ratification of the CBA. But there were some anxious — and comical — moments leading up to the afternoon workout, and players weren't sure they'd be permitted to practice right up until the end, even after missing six days of camp.
"One minute they said, 'You can't go,' " said LB Adam Hayward, one of those affected. "We had gotten ready. Then they were like, 'Okay, you can go. Get ready. (Then) you can't go, get undressed.'
"Then they're like, 'Be ready to go. Can't go.' Then we just kind of gave up. Some guys got ready to leave. Then when we weren't out here, coach (Raheem Morris) said, 'Go get dressed, it's a go.' I just got to go full speed. I got to run downfield and hit the wedge and got that feeling out of the way."
Times staff writer Rick Stroud contributed to this report.