TAMPA — Barring a last-minute change of heart — or perhaps his exoneration — the Bucs are expected to release troubled CB Aqib Talib.
Only the lockout, which prevents teams from making transactions, has prevented Tampa Bay from already cutting ties with its 2008 first-round draft pick.
Despite his talent as one of the few shutdown cornerbacks in the league, Talib has run out of chances, the Bucs believe.
Talib, 25, has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in a March 21 shooting in Garland, Texas, a second-degree felony punishable by two to 20 years in prison. Police say he fired a handgun at Shannon Billings, 40, his sister's live-in boyfriend. Through his attorneys, Talib has denied the accusation.
Since arriving from Kansas, Talib has been involved in a series of violent incidents.
He fought a teammate at the NFL rookie symposium. In 2009 he swung a helmet at tackle Donald Penn during an argument and inadvertently struck cornerback Torrie Cox, splitting his head open. Last year Talib agreed to a deal with prosecutors to resolve a battery charge after he was accused of hitting a St. Petersburg cab driver, and he was suspended for the first game last season by commissioner Roger Goodell.
In the Texas case, police say Talib tried to pistol whip his sister's boyfriend during a domestic dispute. When Talib's mother, Okolo, arrived, she fired several shots at Billings before Talib got the weapon and shot at Billings. Okolo Talib, 58, also was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon as well as being a felon in possession of a handgun.
As far as the Bucs are concerned, the outcome of the case won't matter. They know Talib at the least faces a long league suspension.
The Bucs have reached a point where they believe Talib's talent no longer justifies the trouble he generates. They believe it's only a matter of time before he runs afoul of the rules again.
That's why general manager Mark Dominik made it clear last week that the Bucs have altered their draft plans to include selecting a cornerback.
The Bucs don't have to wait for the outcome of Talib's case to make a move. They didn't in October when former TE Jerramy Stevens was arrested on two felony marijuana possession charges; the team released him two days later.
Goodell isn't likely to wait for a resolution, either, before making a move. He has said the league's personal conduct policy applies during the lockout and will be enforced when a collective bargaining agreement is reached.
SOPHOMORE JINX: The hardest year for a team to win is the year after it first wins. That has been a pattern for the Bucs. They had their modern-day breakout season in 1997 and retreated in '98 by going 8-8. They won Super Bowl XXXVII for the 2002 season, then fell to 7-9 in 2003.
Schedules are a major factor. Success brings more national television appearances, which this season means the Bucs playing the Colts on Monday Night Football at 8:30 Oct. 3, then traveling to San Francisco for a 4:15 p.m. game Oct. 9. It means playing Saturday night on the NFL Network against the Cowboys on Dec. 17 and losing a home game to travel to London to play the Bears on Oct. 23.
Playing on Sunday at 1 p.m. always is preferred, even though players crave the national spotlight. But Dominik understands the trappings of success.
"It was really exciting for us, and I want us to live up to it because I'd like to have more," he said of national TV games.
"I was excited that the league put us at 4:15 against Atlanta (on Sept. 25) to have a chance to have a Fox doubleheader game in a rivalry that's gone their way for the last two years. But also the fact (Fox) gave us these prime-time games at home for our season-ticket holders. … I think it's great. It speaks volumes of what we're trying to do here in Tampa."