Like any successful defensive back, Aqib Talib is focusing on the challenges ahead rather than his mistakes of the past.
Instead of dwelling on a possible NFL suspension, Tampa Bay's troubled fourth-year cornerback is already game-planning for the season opener against Detroit and elite wide receiver Calvin Johnson.
"Straight football,'' Talib said Friday when asked about the perils of off-field distractions. "I'm focused only on the stuff I can control. If I can't control it, I'm not going to focus on it. It's about setting that alarm, waking up, making it to meetings, coming out here on the practice field and making (wide receiver) Mike Williams better. It's about seeing Calvin Johnson early, Sept. 11th, when it all starts.''
Talib, who intercepted six passes for the Buccaneers before suffering a season-ending hip injury against Atlanta Dec. 5, has been charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon stemming from a March incident in Texas.
Although Talib's trial has been postponed until the spring, he faces potential sanctions from NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who suspended Talib one game last year for an altercation with a taxi driver.
"I know he's got to go through a whole bunch of legal stuff,'' said Bucs coach Raheem Morris, "but I don't think anything will happen as far as the league. They usually wait to pass judgment until something happens legally first. Aqib's ready to go. Aqib's ready to play.''
According to Talib, he's more than ready.
"I was alright last season, but I didn't finish the year,'' he said. "It ain't never really good if you don't finish. We were in the middle of a playoff push and the team was playing well. I'm going against (Falcons wide receiver) Roddy White and we've got our throwback jerseys on. It don't get too much better than that.
"Then I heard that muscle pop and I knew it was bad. It was my first serious injury and I'm still not 100 percent, but I'm in the high 80s or low 90s. I'm almost there. I kind of did my own personal rehab because of the lockout. There's nothing like being at home with your own trainer, but I think I did a pretty good job getting myself right.''
Talib said he doesn't feel disrespected when his name isn't mentioned with Darrelle Revis of the Jets and Philadelphia's Nnamdi Asomugha in conversations about the league's premier corners.
"I'm really not interested,'' Talib said. "That doesn't bother me. They've got all the Pro Bowls and all the accolades. We've just got to win some games. A few wins, a little prime time -- then you'll see accolades coming out of Tampa.''
Coming off a 10-6 season that left Tampa Bay just short of an NFC playoff spot, Talib and the rest of the young Bucs enter a new year with confidence.
"Everybody's hungry around here,'' he said. "People are still mad from last year. Everyone's working hard, with their heads in the playbook. I think it's going to be a good one.''
Talib is paying special attention to Tampa Bay's defensive line, where rookie ends Adrian Clayborn and Da'Quan Bowers intend to spend their fall Sundays meeting at the quarterback.
"A pass rush is a DBs best friend,'' Talib said. "We get a pass rush, that bails you out of a lot of stuff and puts a lot more balls in your hands. If we get a good rush, the DBs here are going to have a field day.''
While the Bucs await word from the commissioner's office, Talib said he's grateful for the encouragement from fans since he turned himself in on a felony arrest warrant.
"There's been a lot of good support,'' he said. "I love Tampa fans … there's nothing like 'em.''
What about Coach Morris?
"That's my dog,'' said Talib. "If anybody's got the real true story of what happened, Rah does.''