With the Patriots tepid on the topic of keeping cornerback Aqib Talib with a multi-year deal, his former college coach has offered a surprisingly strong assessment in response to the notion that Talib doesn’t work hard enough.
“[H]e loves to play football,” Mark Mangino recently told Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald. “He enjoyed practice time. He hustled, made plays, did all of his drill work full speed, played hard in the games, did what was asked of him in the weight room, got bigger and stronger when he was with us. I find that a little hard to believe.
“Things can change, obviously, but I stopped into the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp [last summer]. I visited with several members of the staff, front office people, strength coaches, trainers, assistant coaches. To the person, they told me what a great job Aqib was doing. ‘He is showing leadership. He is working his tail off in the [OTAs]. He’s been a leader. He is really busting his butt, and he is really working hard.’
“That doesn’t always happen. I have been to training camps in the past where I’ve had a former player that I’ve coached, and the coaches have come up to me and say, ‘This player doesn’t work hard. He’s not into it.’ They’ll tell you the truth. When you go to these NFL places, they don’t mince any words.”
The Bucs may not have minced words, but they eventually traded Talib. And it’s no surprise. As coach Greg Schiano tries to build a roster of players of high character, Talib was one of several who simply didn’t fit.
That said, Talib possibly was working hard; it could be that his four-game suspension for violating the league’s policy regarding performance-enhancing substances prompted the trade. And it could be that an Adderall-free Talib doesn’t work as hard as he does when taking the banned stimulant.
Still, it seems a little odd Mangino is singing Talib’s praises. Throughout Talib’s various on-field and off-field struggles, Mangino has not been a particularly vocal defender. Also, it was widely known during the weeks preceding the 2008 draft that Kansas coaches were not saying flattering things about Talib to scouts.
The question now for the Pats is whether they can strike a deal that will extend Talib’s stay beyond a handful of 2012 games. If he leaves, they won’t have gotten much in return for the fourth-round pick they sent to Tampa.
But at least they got a seventh-round pick back in return.