Greg Schiano admitted he was concerned. But the first-year Tampa Bay coach chose an optimistic outlook when it came to Aqib Talib.
"Well, any time you have a guy where there's an off-the-field situation that could affect his on-the-field situation, you're concerned,'' he said in the Tampa Bay Times after charges of assault with a deadly weapon against Talib -- the third incident (including two arrests) on record since he entered the NFL in 2008 -- were dropped in June.
But Schiano decided to focus on the Aqib Talib he'd dealt with since becoming coach, not the one he'd heard about.
"The thing that I can tell you is since I arrived here January 26, he's been awesome," Schiano said. "The way he's worked, he's been here every day. I hope that it's left behind him and there isn't anything and that we can move forward because, again, I can only judge people since I've been involved.
"I can't stick my head in the sand, as I've said before, but on the other hand . . . he's been extremely focused and here, doing everything that we asked. So I'm pleased with that and hope everything can just kind of sort itself out and we can get back to life . . . normal situation.''
Talib escaped the potential 20-year jail sentence. After dismissal of the charges, he promised he'd fly right.
Clean slate, clean start, Talib told an Atlanta radio station. Got the little situation behind me, man, so Im just forward from now on.
He drew hope from Schiano. The way Talib tells it, former coach Raheem Morris wasn't much of a disciplinarian.
It got a little loose last year where people got a little too loose around the building, he said. So Schiano definitely came in and brought that order back to the building.
All went well for a while.
Talib started all four of Tampa's September games. He had 21 total tackles, seven passes defensed, one interception, and a blocked punt.
But then came the suspension. A violation of the league's policy on PED's earned Talib a four-game ban on October 13. Instead of fighting, the corner confirmed the positive test for Adderall so he could return to game play as soon as possible.
His apology was part of the team's official statement:
Around the beginning of training camp, I made a mistake by taking an Adderall pill without a prescription," explained Talib. " This is especially regrettable because, for the past several months, with Coach Schianos help, Ive worked very hard to improve myself -- professionally and personally -- as a player and a man. I am truly sorry to my teammates, coaches and Buccaneers fans, and Im disappointed in myself.
"I will work diligently every day of this suspension to stay in top football shape and be ready to help this team in the second half of the season. I have chosen to be immediately accountable for the situation I put myself in, which is why I will not exercise my appeal rights and will begin serving the suspension immediately.
Schiano was forced into an unenviable position. But when the coach was asked after Tampa's 38-10 win over Kansas City what his feeling on Talib was, he appeared to stick by his guy.
When Aqibs suspension is up, I really believe hell work hard and be ready. And then well go from there, said Schiano.
When he gets back, then we go with him. But when hes away, Im really, really proud of the way E.J Biggers stepped up. And everybody. Its a trickle-down effect. Guys didnt miss a beat. They went out and played Buccaneer defense."
Tampa won all three of its games -- against the Chiefs, Saints, and Vikings -- played in Talib's absence. Perhaps that made it easier to let go.
Now it's up to the Patriots to see if there's enough reason to hold on.