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Broncos' Talib: I'm more mature and professional than I was with Bucs

Denver Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib returns an interception 46 yards for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016 at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, Colo. (Mark Reis/Colorado Springs Gazette/TNS) 1190380
Published Sep. 29, 2016

TAMPA — Lying in wait the high grass on a little hitch route, Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib jumped on a pass thrown by Colts quarterback Andrew Luck to receiver Phillip Dorsett, sidestepped tight end Jack Doyle and outraced Chester Rogers to the end zone for the ninth interception returned for a touchdown in his career.

The Week 2 highlight gave the Broncos a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, one they never relinquished in a 34-20 win.

For Talib, it also tied him for fourth on the NFL's all-time list with Hall of Fame defensive backs Deion Sanders, Aeneas Williams and Ken Houston for the most career pick-sixes.

"When I started my career, I always set goals for myself," Talib said during a conference call Wednesday. "First, I wanted to be a star in the league. Then I wanted to make a Pro Bowl. Then All-Pro, win the Super Bowl and things like that. As you complete those, some of those goals, then you start to think about (the) Hall of Fame and stuff.

"It's hard not to be aware of stuff like that. You pay attention to what you do in the league, what you're considered in the league. So I'm definitely aware of the numbers I put up."

Talib makes his first return to Raymond James Stadium on Sunday since being traded to the Patriots by the Bucs during the crisis-filled 2012 season. So how did he go from "Crime Time" to being compared to "Prime Time?" How did he sell his house but leave most of his baggage in Tampa Bay? Why do the Bucs give up on bad-boy players only to see some of them, such as Talib and Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount, the league's leading rusher, wearing Super Bowl rings?

"The biggest thing that changed is I'm 30 years old now," Talib said. "A lot older. A lot more mature. A lot more professional, I would say. It's simply football. It means a lot to just be accomplishing goals and in football to be a Super Bowl champ, to tie Deion Sanders for interceptions for touchdowns. Man, it's a blessing to be successful in the game that I love."

There will always be second, and even third, chances for a player with the size (6 feet 1, 205 pounds), hands and quickness of Talib, one of the few true lock-down cornerbacks in the NFL. But in Tampa Bay, he was locked up more than anyone cares to remember.

In 2012, Talib had been suspended for four games for using what he said was Adderall, a banned substance, when the Bucs beat the deadline and dealt him and a seventh-round draft pick for a 2013 fourth-rounder they used to take defensive end William Gholston.

Sounding more introspective than the petulant player that left the Bucs, Talib was asked what he would tell the 22-year-old Talib if he had the chance

"I would tell my younger self to start early, man," Talib said. "Don't wait until Year 4 or Year 5 to start watching the film and start really being a professional football player. Just start early, and who knows where I could be today if I would've started early."

Here is what else he would tell him:

• Don't be a hothead and punch a teammate at the rookie symposium.

• Don't swing your helmet in a practice fight and accidentally split the melon of a teammate.

• Don't try to start your own taxi squad by assaulting a cab driver; you will end up agreeing to enter a pretrial program and settle for six figures with the driver out of court.

• Don't chase your sister's boyfriend and pull the trigger of a gun; Talib's mom, a felon who wheeled up with gun in hand, also was arrested in that altercation, which ended with charges against Talib being dropped.

Trouble still has a way of sticking to Talib like gum on a shoe. He stepped into it big time in June when he was shot in a Dallas nightclub. The bullet entered Talib's right thigh and exited his calf. Though two other men were also shot at the club, no charges were filed. There was speculation that Talib might have accidentally shot himself.

Bleeding on his way to the hospital in his Rolls-Royce, Talib wondered if his career was over.

"It was definitely scary, just the unknown time when I didn't know what was going to happen, if I was going to walk," Talib said.

"But the whole time I was praying and praying and praying, and God blessed me."

And just like his interception return against the Colts, Talib has barely managed to stay in bounds.

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