Aqib Talib was in the process of undergoing a transformation of sorts during his time in New England.
He went from a "wild-horse rider" in Tampa Bay, as one former member of the Buccaneers put it, to a leader and a stickler for punctuality in Denver. In between? He spent two seasons with the Patriots where he told ESPN he learned how to be a professional.
"One thing I have to say about that establishment over there: They’re very professional," Talib said. "You go there for one season and you’re professionalism will go up a plus-2. If you’re at seven, you’ll be a nine.
"That definitely helped my professionalism as far as preparation for the game, how to handle the media, my behavior on the field -- everything. I really learned how to be a professional over there. I went there a seven and came out a nine. I’m working on being a 10."
Talib hasn't always been on his best behavior while in Denver; he was suspended one game earlier this season for poking an opponent in the eye. But at 29 years old, his teammates in the Broncos secondary say he's the one who's urging others to take care of themselves and show up to meetings on time. He made the Pro Bowl for the third time this season, and his coverage on the outside helped the Broncos defense rank as the No. 1 defensive unit in the league this season.
The maturation process that Talib has undergone since his time in Tampa might have been inevitable regardless of where he spent the last few seasons. But for a player who appeared to be in need of a wake-up call while in Tampa, a couple of seasons in New England appears to have rehabilitated his reputation, altered his approach to his job, and done wonders for his career.