Extra Points: Belichick's latest reclamation project
Philadelphia, PA – The NFL's trade deadline pales in comparison to other major professional sports.
In the weeks leading up to the deadlines over in the NBA or MLB, reporters dish the gossip like Cindy Adams or Perez Hilton. In football, a sport in which personnel people are obsessed with continuity and stockpiling draft picks, the deadline barely registers a blip on the radar.
Most casual fans didn't even know the deadline was approaching since it generates such little buzz. The lead-up to the 2012 version featured no more action than usual despite a slight switch from after Week 6 to after Week 8, coupled with a two-day extension in the aftermath Hurricane Sandy, which decimated part of the East Coast and forced the NFL to shut the league office for a few days.
Only two trades ended up being consummated despite the extra 16 days to work with and neither had any pulses racing. Detroit, which recently lost Nate Burleson for the season with a broken right leg, acquired receiver Mike Thomas from Jacksonville, while New England took a chance on the troubled Aqib Talib, snaring the cornerback from Tampa Bay for a mid- and late-round draft choice.
The most interesting aspect of the Thomas deal is the fact that the Lions are actually playing in Jacksonville this week, an indication of just how bad things are going for the 1-6 Jags. When your "State secrets" produce little to nothing as far as production goes, it's not really necessary to keep others in the dark.
Talib, however, could make a significant difference in New England and is just the latest of Bill Belichick's reclamation projects.
Few coaches have the cachet to take on a problem like Talib but Belichick's reputation is backed-up by jewelry and a lot of it. That's why "The Hoodie" can take on a Corey Dillon or a Randy Moss, while other mentors flee at the mere mention of "troubled talents."
It doesn't always work out. Enigmatic defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth and diva-like wide receiver Chad Ochocinco certainly added nothing to the 2011 Patriots but Belichick is far from gun-shy.
He sees a team with a problematic secondary that's in position to make another significant run in what looks like a watered-down AFC. New England has allowed an average of 281.1 passing yards over its first eight games (28th in the NFL) and Asante Samuel and Lawyer Milloy weren't about to walk through that locker room door.
Perhaps it was apropos that Talib's often-turbulent 4 1/2-year tenure with the Bucs came to an end while he was on suspension for taking Adderall without a prescription. But, his last official act in Central Florida may have given you a glimpse into why Belichick rolled the dice.
Considering Talib's past, it was probably not all that hard to argue he might actually need Adderall, which is generally used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as narcolepsy. After all, this is a guy who got into a fistfight with Cory Boyd at the NFL rookie symposium in 2008, was charged with the alleged battering of a taxi driver in '09, and was indicted for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon after he was accused of firing a gun at his sister's boyfriend.
But forget any of the excuses, Talib took the Adderall without a prescription and actually copped to it.
"Around the beginning of training camp, I made a mistake by taking an Adderall pill without a prescription," Talib said in a statement issued by Tampa Bay when he was suspended.
"This is especially regrettable because, for the past several months, with coach (Greg) Schiano's help, I've 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 I'm disappointed in myself."
It was nice to see the talented but troubled Talib, a 2008 first-round pick, show the maturity to admit his mistake and accept his punishment.
For the Bucs and Schiano, however, it was game over. Tampa Bay is an organization which hasn't built up the kind of goodwill the Patriots have and Schiano is trying to change a culture from the ground up without the most impressive resume in the sport.
Belichick, on the other hand, has cultivated the strongest locker room in the modern-era of the NFL, one that will spit out a player like Talib if he doesn't toe the line.
"I think there is an expectation that when you come in here, you have to represent this organization the right way," Tom Brady told Sirius XM NFL Radio earlier this year. "If you're a bad guy, you're not going to be around. If you're not going to fit in, you're not going to be a very good football player.
"We've had so few of them over the years that just don't really work out. You come in and the expectation is to win, so it should be all about winning. If your attitude is somewhere else, then it's hard to find a group to hang out with here. You end up kind of being a loner and you don't enjoy it very much, because you have to worry about winning football games."
It's the classic risk-reward scenario that few others can undertake. If Talib, continues down a dark path in Foxboro, Belichick will simply cut the cord and the media, along with the Pats' fans will fall in line.
If Talib succeeds, however, New England has a shutdown corner in the prime of his career, something worth its weight in gold in today's pass happy NFL.