Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Aqib Talib 'can't wait' to face Calvin Johnson

TAMPA — Bucs corner Aqib Talib talked about how tough it was to sit out the final four games of last season with a hip injury, and watching the team's playoff chances dashed with a 23-20 loss to the Lions on Dec. 19 at Raymond James Stadium.

In that game, Lions star receiver Calvin Johnson — nicknamed "Megatron" — racked up 10 catches for 152 yards in dominating fashion.

But when the teams meet Sunday in Tampa, Talib – who says his hamstring is now healthy — said he "can't wait" for the challenge of shadowing the Lions' 6-foot-5, 230-pound playmaker.

"He's one of the top guys in the league," Talib said. "Slash, digs, jump balls, boy can do it all."

The only question is, what will Talib do Sunday, considering he hasn't played in a game in eight months? Talib sat out all four preseason games, but said his hamstring is "98.5 percent."

Talib said he's been doing extra conditioning, but the only way to get back is by getting game reps, and he'll get plenty, as defensive backs coach Jimmy Lake said he'll play "every snap."

"We're hoping he picks up where he left off last year," Lake said. "He's going to be the same guy. He's the ultimate competitor, and he'd never allow me to take him off the field anyway, so he's going to be out there every single play."

Said coach Raheem Morris: "He's a game-day guy, a show-up-and-play type of guy. He'll be ready to go."

Talib is arguably the Bucs' best defensive player, with six interceptions before an injury cut his 2010 season short.

Among Johnson's big plays in last year's game were clutch receptions on the final play of regulation and in overtime's lone possession, including a 12-yard, sideline-straddling, third-down grab in overtime.

Corner Ronde Barber minced few words afterward, saying Johnson "dominated us," even with an extra defensive back leaning his direction all day. Morris remembered the first time the Bucs faced Johnson, and on jump-balls, "it looked like (Michael) Jordan."

"He's going to make his plays," Lake said. "We've just got to limit those plays. Throughout the game, we know he's not going to be limited to zero catches. They're going to throw him the football."

On Monday, Johnson told that the win in Tampa last year, one of four consecutive for Detroit to end the season, was "big for us" in the fact they got to spoil the Bucs season.

"We took pride in that — being able to knock those guys out," Johnson said. "I had a couple nice catches toward the end of that game. Overall, we had a good game at the receiver position. We went out there and took over that game and made a bunch of plays from the beginning to the end."

Morris said Talib was "upset" he missed that game. There was a danger Talib wouldn't be around for Sunday's showdown with Johnson either; the fourth-year corner was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon stemming from a March incident in Texas.

But since Talib found out a couple of weeks ago he wouldn't be suspended this season by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, his eyes have been on being ready for Sept. 11.

"Anytime there's a big name or big guy, per se, (Talib is) up for the challenge, each and every week" safety Sean Jones said.

That being said, Jones knows containing Johnson, as well as fellow receiver Nate Burleson — whom Morris said might be one of the best slot receivers in the league — is not just a one-man job.

"(Johnson) has a tight end body with receiver speed," Jones said. "He can post you up, and box you in that way. Or he can beat you deep. We're definitely going to keep our eye on him the whole game and try to keep him under wraps. We're going to have (Talib) on him for most of the game. We're excited about that."

While Talib will be back for the Bucs, Johnson will have his starting quarterback, Matt Stafford (after backup Drew Stanton played in last year's game) coming off a strong 4-0 preseason.

"It's a premium matchup," Morris said. "First time (Talib) and (Johnson) get to tango. I look forward to seeing it."

Joe Smith can be reached at

Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Aqib Talib 'can't wait' to face Calvin Johnson 09/06/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, September 6, 2011 9:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
  2. Rays vs. Cubs, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Cubs

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM; 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell poses for a picture during the team's photo day at baseball spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    Chris Archer's night ended with his 11th loss, but he and the Rays should feel good about his six solid innings. After the forearm tightness scare in Chicago, he had two rough outings (15 hits, 11 runs, seven innings), so Tuesday was a reassuring rebound.

  4. At 6-8, Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov comes with, and needs, a high ceiling

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — When Hall of Famer Phil Esposito first saw Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov, he joked that the 6-foot-8 defenseman could reach the Amalie Arena ceiling.

    Lightning 6-foot-8 defenseman Oleg Sosunov competes in the preseason opener. Phil Esposito jokes that Sosunov can reach the ceiling at Amalie Arena.
  5. Jones: Rays' Kevin Cash doesn't mind following in Joe Maddon's steps

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — On this particular night, he's the other guy. He's like a talk-show guest scooted to the end of the couch. He is Kevin Cash. And the Rays manager is standing in the home dugout at Tropicana Field.

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Manager Kevin Cash (L) of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts to action during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on September 17, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) 700012494