TAMPA — When NFL commissioner Roger Goodell gave CB Aqib Talib the green light to play this season, it didn't come a moment too soon for the Bucs.
Goodell ruled Saturday that Talib will not be suspended for his alleged involvement in a shooting in March in Garland, Texas, which means the Bucs will have their top defensive back in the lineup when they face the man known as "Megatron."
Lions WR Calvin Johnson comes to town Sept. 11 for the season opener, less than a year after he gutted the Talib-less Bucs for 10 catches and 152 yards in December. Johnson's big day, which came in spite of playing with backup QB Drew Stanton, set up a Lions victory that cost the Bucs a playoff berth. Talib was sidelined with a season-ending hip injury.
"I've covered Calvin once or twice," Bucs CB Ronde Barber said. "I'd rather not."
Assuming Talib's hamstring injury heals — it has kept him out of all three preseason games so far — he will draw the matchup against the Pro Bowl receiver.
"We're fired up to have Aqib back," coach Raheem Morris said. "I'm looking forward to seeing his battle vs. Megatron in Week 1."
Regarding Goodell's decision, Talib believes sharing his version of the events surrounding the shooting incident led to the favorable outcome. The league gave no explanation for the decision, but Talib, 25, was summoned to New York last week to meet with Goodell and was accompanied by his criminal defense attorney, Frank Perez.
Talib is charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after Texas police say he pistol whipped and attempted to shoot at his sister's boyfriend before the pistol jammed.
"I went down, gave the commissioner the rundown on what really happened, (and) my lawyer did a good job of presenting information that (Goodell) really didn't know about," Talib said. "It was a good meeting and we definitely respect the commissioner's decision."
Especially because it gets Talib in the lineup for a game in which the Bucs need him badly.
"Just another thing I don't have to worry about," Talib said. "I can just focus on that Sept. 11 game."
FIRST TIME OUT: Five key players made their preseason debuts in Saturday's 17-13 victory against Miami after returning from injuries that had prevented them from participating:
TE Kellen Winslow (two catches, 18 yards) was among them. "Just a little rusty," Winslow said of his performance. "Nothing like going live, but it was good for me."
Winslow left with a mild ankle sprain but said he would be ready for the season opener.
Others making a debut included WR Arrelious Benn (one catch, 12 yards), TE Luke Stocker (one catch, 8 yards), DT Brian Price (one tackle) and CB Myron Lewis (two tackles).
QUOTABLE: QB Josh Freeman, on the Bucs' 15 penalties for 135 yards on Saturday:
"We've got to find a way to eliminate that out of our game regardless of what the situation is. Penalties will kill drives."