Tampa Bay Buccaneers veteran Ronde Barber has seen what cornerback Aqib Talib can do on the field, which makes his teammate's struggles off it all the more difficult to swallow.
To Barber, Talib is too talented to have extracurricular activities take away from his potential as a player.
"I don't want say he can't do without football, but he's so good at it, football shouldn't be interrupted for a guy like that, especially for anything that happened outside of football," Barber told the St. Petersburg Times in Sunday's edition.
Police in Garland, Texas, charged Talib with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, stemming from a March 21 domestic incident. The second-degree felony is punishable by two to 20 years in prison, and Talib is out of jail on $25,000 bond. He is scheduled to stand trial on March 26, 2012, according to his attorney.
Barber believes Talib's problems stem from an inability or unwillingness to properly prioritize football.
"If I had any guidance for Aqib it would be to make him focus on football," said Barber, a five-time Pro Bowler who has played his entire career with the Bucs. "Everybody has priorities, and I'm not one to tell anybody what to do with their lives, but we all know that football has got to be something that defines him, not all this other stuff."
Barber said that he and Bucs coach Raheem Morris advised Talib to remain in Tampa to train during the offseason, but the cornerback opted to return to his hometown near Dallas. The decision was a fateful one, leading to his latest criminal charges for a shooting incident involving his sister's boyfriend.
"He has his life in Dallas, and I don't know what that life is," Barber told the Times. "Aqib is a person that should be … the confident Buc.
"But he's got to embrace Tampa the way Tampa as the team wants to embrace him. (Former Buc great) Warren (Sapp) was great with that. He knew the team atmosphere was better when everybody is around. There's a culture, a spirit, and nowadays (players) want to go back and train wherever they are. "That's different than from when I was coming up. We always wanted to be around."