Talib says life is 'better' since he landed with Pats

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Talib says life is 'better' since he landed with Pats

FOXBORO - The importance of Aqib Talib to the Patriots is shown by the responsibilities he shoulders.

On Sunday, playing in his first career playoff game, he was manned up with the great Texans receiver Andre Johnson. The Patriots don't often sic a corner on one specific receiver but Talib has been asked to do it twice now against the Texans - December 10 and Sunday.

Both times, Talib fought Johnson to a draw. Sunday, Johnson finished with eight catches for 95 yards. In today's NFL, that's about as well as you can do in a game where the quarterback throws it 54 times and is playing catch-up most of the game.

"It was a great battle; its two good football players," Bill Belichick said after the Patriots 41-28 win. "Johnson is a great receiver. Hes arguably one or two all-time (ed. note: I don't think he meant that...), hes tremendous. Hes big, fast, has great hands, good route runner. Aqib competed with him every down, just like he did the first half of the first game. Thats two good football players and thats a battle. We didnt give him a lot of help. Johnson caught a few but Aqib battled him pretty well there. It was a good matchup."

"It's football, man," answered Talib in his twangy cadence. "As a corner, a lot of time you draw that job. I'm definitely honored."

The 26-year-old Talib was traded to New England in October because the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were sick of dealing with him. Since joining Tampa as a first-rounder in 2008, he'd been in frequent trouble both with the law and within the league.

When New England acquired Talib, he was still on suspension after testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

For a player whose career was headed off a cliff, Talib has - at least for now - grabbed onto a branch and it climbing back up.

"This is what you play for, man.. You don't play to play 16 and go home, you play to get in the tournament you know and try to win it all," Talib said when asked to reflect on where he's gotten. "Bill gave me a chance to come here and I got a chance to play in the tournament, man, so I'm very thankful."

Asked if life has gotten simpler since he's been in New England, Talib said, "It's a lot better. I wouldn't say simplified. I'd say it's a lot better. It's a lot better, man, getting to work for Mr. Kraft, Coach Belichick, it's a lot better."

At the end of this season, Talib will be a free agent. His work here has showcased that he's a very capable corner. The market for his services will likely be high. Whether New England is the right fit for him for the long-term, Talib wouldn't say.

"Right now I'm a Patriot, man," he said. "I'm a Patriot and next week we got the Ravens. I put (the future) in God's hands. He's the best planner, man, that's what my momma told me."

Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

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Belichick: Patriots have caught up after starting offseason 'five weeks behind'

FOXBORO -- After starting the offseason "five weeks behind," as Bill Belichick put it, the Patriots have caught up. 

"I think we’re probably caught up to where we are now," he said before Thursday's OTA practice at Gillette Stadium. "I think it’s being behind in draft, free agency and that type of thing.

"I think at this point, we’re ready for OTAs. We’ll be ready for training camp. I think that part of it we’ll be on schedule on. It’s the catching up on all the spring projects, draft and free agency. It’s the initial part of it."

Belichick made headlines on the morning after winning his fifth Lombardi Trophy with the Patriots when he said, "As of today, and as great as today feels and as great as today is, in all honesty we're five weeks behind in the 2017 season to most teams in the league. Fortunately we have a great personnel staff

"Look, in a couple weeks we're going to be looking at the combine, obviously the draft, all-star games have already occurred, and in a month we're into free agency, not to mention all the internal Patriots players (whose) contracts are up and we're going to have to work with in some form or fashion like every team in the league does."

Leaning on evaluations of players that began in the build-up to previous drafts, Belichick and his staff opted to trade away some of this year's draft capital for veterans like Brandin Cooks, Kony Ealy and Dwayne Allen. They also gave up their fifth-rounder to sign restricted free agent Mike Gillislee.

Before heading out to the team's third practice of the week -- the first week the Patriots were allowed to introduce helmets and run offense versus defense periods -- Belichick said that part of his focus will be spent on finding out how those players he picked up this offseason are progressing.

"Yeah, that’s definitely part of it," he said. "Seeing the new players, how they’re doing and also how they’re doing relevant to the rest of the other players that I’m a little more familiar with. Again, each year is a new year, so even though we’ve seen some of these guys multiple years, it’s still starting all over again, seeing where they are, how they’re progressing in their training and preparation for the season."