Remember when the Cincinnati Bengals had a bad rap for being that team that took chances on — or gave far too many chances to — players with character issues?
Well, it appears Tampa has taken that mantle from the Cincinnati, becoming the newest safe haven for poorly-behaved players.
Aqib Talib’s recent arrest has reignited the discussion: Do the Bucs neglect character concerns when deciding who to include on their 53-man roster?
Since general manager Mark Dominik and head coach Raheem Morris took over two years ago, Bucs players have been arrested 10 times. Interestingly, the arrested team members that played bit roles on the field were quickly cut (Anthony Mix, Marcus Johnson, Jerramy Stevens) while the more prominent troublemakers avoided the axe (Talib, Mike Williams, Jermaine Phillips, Jeremy Trueblood).
LeGarrette Blount was practically blackballed in the 2010 draft after punching a Boise State player in the jaw; Tampa signed him late in the summer and he’s now the team’s No. 1 back. Tanard Jackson was suspended for the entire 2010 season after a second violation of the league’s substance abuse policy; he’s still a Buccaneer.
Talib has a laundry list of indiscretions. In all fairness, he wasn’t drafted by the current Tampa management regime, but the organization has tolerated Talib’s antics for three years running. Unfortunately, he’s also probably the best defensive player on the team, and cutting him would likely force the Bucs to alter their offseason draft and free-agency strategy.
Losing Talib would hurt a lot, but the public pressure will be on Dominik and Morris to release him. He’s already sure to be suspended once a new collective bargaining agreement gives commissioner Roger Goodell jurisdiction to flex his personal-conduct-policy muscles. But some fans will demand more from the Buccaneers.
Should Talib serve a suspension, return to the field and perform well, the majority of Bucs fans will forgive and forget. Sports fans are remarkably good at doing that when their teams are winning. But does Talib deserve another chance to win the fans back?
This could get interesting.