Reading the media reaction to Aqib Talib's suspension for performance enhancing drugs has been interesting. While fans appear to be split on Aqib Talib's presence on the roster, the media reaction has been overwhelmingly negative. Headlines like "Bucs should give Talib no more chances", "Time for Buccaneers to cut Aqib Talib loose" and "Bucs make a mistake in bringing back Aqib Talib" have dominated the coverage of Talib's suspension.
All of these articles seem misguided to me. Greg Schiano has made it clear that Aqib Talib will have a place on this team after his suspension ends, although it remains to be seen whether he will be re-signed during the offseason. The presence of Talib on the roster won't send a bad message to the team or to the community, as Tom Jones of the Tampa Bay Times suggests.
Let's revisit what Greg Schiano said when he started as the Bucs' head coach. He noted that everyone would have a "clean slate" - that they would get a chance to prove that they belonged and wanted to be a Buccaneer, and that past transgressions wouldn't matter. The results were obvious: Tanard Jackson, Brian Price, Dezmon Briscoe and Kellen Winslow were let go - despite the fact that all of those players were starters and key contributors the previous season. They did not fit the team's new culture, for whatever reason.
Yet Aqib Talib stuck. Not because he's an irreplaceable player - Schiano has made it clear that he will get rid of the bad apples no matter their contributions. No, he stuck because he did turn out to be a Buccaneer man. He showed up for all of the offseason workouts, was accountable on and off the field, and didn't provide any embarrassing moments for the franchise. In short: he bought in to the regime.
Then, this suspension came down. A suspension for taking Adderall - that at least is what Talib claims it is. Regardless of the truth, it is a suspension for performance enhancing drugs. This is not comparable to an assault charge, or even a drug arrest - because players are almost never caught with PEDs more than once. There's no real reason to believe that this will be a continuing problem in the future.
On the surface, this may appear to be just the latest incident in a long line of embarrassing actions, but this is different. It's his first transgression as a Schiano disciple. More importantly, taking a PED is hardly comparable to his previous actions. And this won't be the last time Schiano will have to deal with something like this. He won't be able to cut everyone for failing a PED test.
So what would send a poor message to the team? Cutting Aqib Talib. After Talib was given a clean slate, apparently turned his life around, stayed away from off-field trouble, did everything Greg Schiano asked him to do, punishing him for a relatively minor transgression would look much worse than hanging on to a quality player who has done everything he's been asked to do.