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Aqib Talib enters 2016 as a needed leader

Sam Cowhick Avatar
April 19, 2016


The Denver Broncos lost some leadership along with talent and familiarity over the highly publicized and short offseason. Peyton Manning tops that list but special teams captain David Bruton, Malik Jackson, Danny Trevathan and Omar Bolden also left the illustrious 2015 Broncos defense.

Monday, Aqib Talib, a veteran and one of the highest-paid Broncos, who has always led by example at practice and with his play between the whistles, acknowledged he now knows he must step into a larger role as this season brings a welcomed familiar routine but different roster.

“In the classroom, in the weight room and on the field when we’re training, the leaders on the team are going to play a huge role in getting guys off that wave and getting back to work,” he told. “I feel like I’m one of those leaders on the team, leaders on the defense. It’s going to be a lead-by-example kind of situation.”

Talib has been a phenomenal player for the Broncos. He joined the team March 12, 2014, after stints in New England and Tampa Bay and continued on as one of the National Football League’s best. He has compiled the most interceptions by a cornerback since entering the league in 2008, grabbing 11 as a Bronco and is one of only three cornerbacks to be named to the Pro Bowl the last three seasons.

His play on the field speaks for itself and, unfortunately, sometimes he does go over the edge. He was flagged in Indianapolis last year for poking a Colt’s eye intentionally garnering a one-game suspension and in Super Bowl 50 he was flagged twice for egregious penalties, one for taunting and one incredibly dangerous intentional face mask.

As Manning and other former Broncos’ leaders depart Talib must not just lead with his blanketing pass coverage but also with his emotions in check. Behind DeMarcus Ware and his 12 years of NFL experience, Talib is the most experienced player on the roster and must act like it. Monday he commented on the leadership dynamic of this year’s team.

“I think we split that leadership role,” he said of the veterans on the current roster. “DeMarcus plays a huge part. Chris [Harris Jr.] plays a huge part. There are a lot of guys in our locker room who play a part when it comes to leadership. Some guys are not as vocal. Some guys just put their head down and work. When I see that, it makes me put my head down and work. Some guys are vocal so that leadership role is spread through our locker room. There are a lot of guys that take advantage of that role.”

As the team reconvened this week for organized team activities, Talib stated he is ready to get back to work after a wild offseason as Super Bowl Champion in addition to getting married just weeks ago. He will make over $9.9 million in 2016 and his contract extends through 2019. However, this is the last year of his deal in which his dead cap money keeps him safe from becoming a cap room cut. Entering his tenth season, Talib noted Monday that the familiar coaches and schemes with many returning starters is a very good starting point for the team.

“Just to come in and know how our offseason is going to go and know how Phase one and Phase one of OTAs, just knowing our schedule and how Coach ‘Kub’ runs the building,” he explained. “It’s always nice to have the same D-Coordinator (Wade Phillips), the same situation when you come back in. A lot of times I came back in the offseason and I had to learn a whole new defense. I may have to do that six or seven times in eight years. It’s good to come back to that foundation.”

Talib was close to a Super Bowl in New England, joining them after their SuperBowl XLVI loss and was one season removed from their Super Bowl XLIX win when he joined the Broncos. Now that he is a Champion himself he knows things have changed for him and many of his teammates.

“It does feel different,” he told. “Like you said, you’ve got the target on your back now. If they didn’t bring their best last year, they’re definitely going to give us their best this year. It just means we have to work that much harder knowing that we’re going to get everybody’s best.”

Despite the football world’s insistence that the Broncos are a team in upheaval, Talib plans on coming in this week and getting back in the swing of things quickly. His and other veteran player’s leadership will be the key to jumpstarting that goal.

“I think that chemistry is huge,” he said. “Just getting back into the swing of things. Some guys want to come back and ease their way into it. We’ve got great chemistry. We’re not scared to talk to each other, so we’ll tell him, ‘Pick it up.’ I feel like that chemistry is us being able to talk to each other and us holding each other accountable. I think that will definitely play a big part in us getting this ball rolling.”

Talib is undoubtedly one of the league’s best players but his contract, age and experience demand more of him in 2016. At least, on day one, he seems to get that.


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