Former Buccaneer Chris Hovan struck out against the Bucs and Aqib Talib on Thursday in a radio appearance for WQYK-AM. He accused Raheem Morris of giving Talib too much leeway, of covering for him and of favoritism. While the Bucs can't do anything with Talib right now because of the lockout and we have no idea how they'll treat Talib once he's back in the building, Hovan certainly has a point. There have been incidents in the past where the Bucs have protected Talib. When he got into an argument with a referee after the Ravens game last season, or when he reportedly got into a shouting match with Raheem Morris in London the Bucs never said a negative word about him. And when he was arrested for slugging a cab driver, the Bucs didn't say much either. Surely they're treating Talib differently than a player with less talent, but that's nothing new - not for the Bucs, and not for the NFL. Special talent begets special treatment, and Talib certainly has special talent and special skills.
You can argue that this is a bad thing, that everyone should be treated equally. But fact is, NFL teams aren't in this business to treat everyone equally. They're in this business to win games, and if that means you accommodate a special player, then that's what you do. Vic Carucci talks about the special treatment of Bruce Smith in response to Hovan's criticism. Ben Roethlisberger is still a Pittsburgh Steeler despite the accusations of rape. Michael Irvin was protected by the Cowboys despite many, many off-field problems. Lawrence Taylor has spoken on his daily intake of massive amounts of cocaine as a New York Giant often, and that was under Bill Parcells - the most infamous disciplinarian in the NFL. Those three players went to a combined twelve Super Bowls, winning seven of them. If you'd ask any of their GMs and coaches, I'm certain they'll say the wins were worth the headaches.
So is that what we have here in Aqib Talib? A player that will get into trouble off the field but will be protected because of his talent? To an extent, absolutely. But there's always a line for the team. If Talib is found guilty of a felony, that line will undoubtedly have been crossed. Even if he isn't found guilty that line may still have been crossed in the eyes of the Bucs, though I think they'll at least try to get something for him in trade instead of simply cutting him.
Make no mistake: if the Bucs cut ties with Talib, he will be signed by another team in an instant. Some team will overlook his off-field problems, and he will play well for them when he's on the field. They'll be left with some embarrassing situations, but they will also win more games because of it. The Bucs will have to decide whether character is more important to them than winning games.