The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will wait for the NFL to impose discipline, if warranted, against cornerback Aqib Talib after Talib was jailed early Thursday morning for allegedly assaulting a cab driver.
Talib, 23, allegedly struck David Duggan in the right ear and neck with a closed fist, causing bodily harm, according to a Florida Highway Patrol report. While in a taxi, Talib was asked three times by Trooper John Ryan to exit the vehicle but "was uncooperative, without offering or doing violence," the report stated.
The report stated that there was an "indication of alcohol influence." Both charges are misdemeanors.
The Bucs will defer to the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and league disciplinary procedures, team general manager Mark Dominik said. For now, Talib is not suspended. He is expected to play in Saturday's preseason game at Jacksonville.
"It's unfortunate, certainly, what happened last night," Dominik said. "I've been in contact with the league office today. This falls under the personal conduct policy. Certainly, whatever decision is made, the commissioner's decision supercedes anything the club does at this time.
"I am working with the commissioner's office. We're going to continue to work together through this and come to a resolution."
Player conduct has been a focus of Goodell's.
"As in any other such matter, we will look into it," league spokesman Greg Aiello said in an e-mail.
The league typically waits for the legal process to run its course or conducts its own investigation. A conviction is not required to be in violation of the league's personal conduct policy, which employs a broad definition of conduct detrimental to the league.
The policy also allows Goodell to impose discipline on an expedited basis for repeat offenders of the conduct policy. It is uncertain whether Talib falls into that category.
Talib has twice had altercations with teammates since joining the Bucs as a first-round draft pick in 2008.
At the NFL's Rookie Symposium, he got into a fight with then-teammate Cory Boyd. And in May, he swung his helmet in anger at teammate Donald Penn, accidentally striking cornerback Torrie Cox in the head. Cox's injury required stitches.
Talib reportedly admitted to teams at the NFL Combine in 2008 that he tested positive for marijuana three times at Kansas. Talib has not failed a drug test in the NFL.
Talib, a starter this season, is a vital part of the team's recent youth movement, his larger-than-life image adorning the side of Raymond James Stadium. Dominik expects more from such a high-profile player.
"Yes, I do," he said. "I think we all do."
Dominik stopped short of suggesting Talib has problems controlling his emotions.
"You know, Aqib is a very outgoing, outspoken young man," Dominik said. "He certainly needs to mature a lot more. That's what I'll say."
The Bucs have addressed Talib's conduct issues before, and will continue to work with him.
"That's what we're doing is trying to help him," Dominik said. "It may not seem like it's working, but I think we're going to continue to work with him. If he needs counseling, he's going to get counseling. We're going to work and try to catch his attention."
Talib joined Thursday's 2:15 p.m. practice 30 minutes after it began, emerging from the team's facility with Dominik. He was in uniform - the team wore shorts, jerseys and helmets - but did not participate in drills.
Talib's arrest comes with the Bucs already hurting in the secondary because of off-the-field issues. Starting safety Tanard Jackson was suspended for four regular-season games without pay this week for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
According to the Florida Highway Patrol report, the arrest took place about 11:10 p.m. Wednesday at Interstate 275 (State Road 93) and Gandy Boulevard in Pinellas County.
Talib was booked into the jail shortly before 1 a.m. and released just after 6 a.m., the report said.
Duggan, the driver of the taxi, said he picked up three men at Nova 535, a lounge in St. Petersburg, about 10:45 p.m. Wednesday and was taking them to the Homewood Suites near Tampa International Airport.
A few minutes into Duggan's drive, it took a dramatic turn.
"I thought I was getting robbed. I thought I was going to die," Duggan told the Tampa Tribune. "I didn't know these guys were Tampa Bay football players. I thought I was done."
Duggan, 47, said he was assaulted by Talib while the player sat in the back seat of his cab. He claims Talib began punching him in the back of his head while he was driving on Interstate 275, prompting Duggan to swerve before stopping on I-275 at Gandy to call the police.
Duggan said he never spoke to Talib while in the cab and the attack was unprovoked.
Duggan said he charged the men $50 for the ride and collected the money up front.
Duggan believes Talib was one of three Buccaneers in his cab headed back into the hotel where the team stayed during training camp. He was unsure of the identities of the other two men.
"Talib began punching from behind and the car went from the right lane to the left lane," Duggan said. "The guy in the front seat started telling at him, 'Dude, you're going to kill us. You're going to kill us.'
"It felt like I got hit with a hammer. I thought I was getting robbed. Until the cops ran his ID, I had no idea who he was."
Duggan said responding officers were prepared to pepper spray Talib, but Duggan protested.
"Talib didn't want to get out the car," Duggan said. "They said they were going to pepper spray him. I said, 'Don't pepper spray the car because that is going to be bad for my customers.' Then three police officers yanked him out the car and stuffed him in the back of the FHP car.
The Pinellas County jail booking sheet said Talib posted a total of $300 bail to be released from jail.
Duggan, who is 5-foot-7, 170 pounds, said he went to the emergency room at Bayfront Medical Center in St. Petersburg at about 1 a.m. and left after 5 a.m. He said he has a large knot on the back of his head and is experiencing headaches.
For the past two years, Duggan was a tow-truck operator before losing his job. He was "down on his luck" and moved in with a friend. He started working for the Independent cab company three days ago to get back on his feet.
After Duggan's run in with Talib, he is unsure whether he will drive his cab again.
"I don't go around beating up people. I've never been in a fight in my life. I'm not the type of person," Duggan said. "It was a vicious attack. It's like a hungry lion going against a chicken. It was that quick.
"I called One Buc Place and I'm ticked off. I have a bunch of medical bills now and somebody needs to pay them."
Nova 535, an art lounge and event space at 535 Dr. Martin Luther King St. N., hosted DJ Fresh's Annual Black and White Birthday Celebration on Wednesday night, according to the lounge's Web site. The event had a $10 cover charge.
Talib, who is slated to start at cornerback this season, was the Bucs' first-round draft pick in the 2008 college draft (20th overall) out of the University of Kansas. He played in 15 games during his rookie season and finished with four interceptions.
Soon after the start of training camp, Talib indicated he had learned from his earlier mistakes.
"I'm a year older and I've gone through a lot of stuff in the past year," Talib told The Tampa Tribune this month. "I've had my ups and downs and you learn from it. But I've got no regrets. It's life. You can't regret nothin' in life. Everything happens for a reason. Don't regret it, just learn from it."
Veteran teammate Ronde Barber said this month that the offseason was "bad and good for Aqib."
"I think he's ready to assume a leadership role - he has to," Barber told the Tribune. "He's a smarter kid than people give him credit for."