GARLAND, Texas — Tucked into a quiet suburban development, Green Pond Drive appears the unlikeliest crime scene. It is a family-filled neighborhood lined with two-story brick houses, well-tended yards, and wide sidewalks.
On a recent afternoon, a father watched his young son ride a bicycle, a jogger ran laps around the block, and carpoolers dropped off schoolchildren.
Gunfire would not be expected in this neighborhood.
But shots echoed through the area on March 21, 2011, as a family dispute escalated into violence. Garland Police charged Aqib Talib with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Authorities believe Talib fired a Ruger .380 handgun at his sister’s live-in boyfriend, Shannon Billings, and attempted to pistol-whip Billings with a Springfield 9mm semiautomatic handgun.
Talib owned both weapons. Recounting the incident to police, Billings said Talib yelled, “You’re going to make me throw away my career,” during the attempted pistol-whipping.
By the time of this incident, talent and trouble already defined Talib’s football career. Selected in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the cornerback quickly racked up interceptions and off-field incidents.
The Green Pond Drive incident continued a pattern of poor judgment and uncontrolled aggression. And while prosecutors dropped the aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge last summer — reportedly because Billings, a repeat sex offender, did not make the best witness — Talib remains at a critical career juncture.
Traded to the Patriots this month, Talib, 26, is set to make his debut with the team Sunday afternoon at Gillette Stadium against the Colts. This likely is Talib’s last, best chance to save his career and truly distance himself from past problems in Florida and Texas. He knows that.
Last Thursday, Talib spoke to reporters for the first time since the trade and focused on football. He smiled broadly and stuck with safe talking points about having a “great opportunity with a great organization” and respecting coach Bill Belichick.
“We kind of just talked straight football,” said Talib. “[Belichick] didn’t bring up the past. I didn’t bring up the past. He didn’t bring up the future. I didn’t bring up the future.”
As it stands, there is no future for Talib beyond this season. He is in the last year of his contract, and New England will pay him the prorated portion of his $1.825 million base salary.
Meanwhile, Talib’s past is hard to push aside, even if he adds the defensive skills the Patriots desperately need in the secondary.
A long list
Talib twice fought with Tampa Bay teammates, admitting after the second altercation in May 2009 that he needed to control his temper better. Four months later, he assaulted a cab driver in St. Petersburg, Fla., then resisted arrest on charges of simple battery. The arrest report said Talib struck driver David Duggan’s right ear and neck with a closed fist and appeared to be under the influence of alcohol. The NFL suspended Talib one game for violating its personal conduct policy.
During an argument with a game official outside the Tampa Bay locker room in November 2010, Talib had to be restrained. Then came the charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in March 2011.
Most recently, Talib violated the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances and received a four-game suspension in October. In a statement released by the Buccaneers, Talib said he “made a mistake by taking an Adderall pill without a prescription.”
The list of problems grows longer if you include Talib’s high school and college years.
At the 2008 NFL Combine, he reportedly told teams that he tested positive for marijuana on three occasions at Kansas. In March 2007, Talib was riding in a truck outside a Lawrence, Kan., nightclub when the vehicle struck a 23-year-old man, according to police reports. The man allegedly had pointed a gun at Talib; he was charged with felony aggravated assault. Neither the driver nor Talib faced charges.
Former Kansas coach Mark Mangino mentioned multiple suspensions early in Talib’s college career, but did not elaborate on the reasons behind them. Mangino did say, however, that once Talib promised there would be no more off-field problems, there weren’t.
Court documents in the Green Pond Drive case show a 2006 burglary charge on Talib’s record. The burglary file is now sealed, but based on witness details, it appears to be the same case described in a Tampa Bay Times article. According to that report, shortly before graduating from Berkner High School in Richardson, Texas, in April 2004, Talib broke into a house down the street from where his high school football coach lived. Reduced charges led to a two-year probation. Continued...