FOXBORO, Mass. — Aqib Talib stood under the sizzling sun on the practice fields at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday afternoon. He lifted his undershirt to dab at the beads of sweat dripping down the side of his face as he walked off the field alongside a few teammates.
Tom Brady, Danny Amendola and most other players wore their short-sleeved practice jerseys and shorts as they worked in the 84-degree heat, but not Talib. The veteran cornerback stuck out like a sore thumb as long, white sleeves covered his arms and two undershirts (red and white) poked out from under the neck of his blank blue jersey.
The only other player seen wearing such unusual attire in the sweltering heat was fellow defensive back Devin McCourty, who sported red sleeves but only a single undershirt. When asked about the interesting wardrobe choice after Tuesday’s organized team activities, Talib was quick to explain that it was all in a day’s work.
“Double shirts, you know,” Talib said. “Out here trying to get hot as possible, get in some good shape.”
Talib is back in New England on a one-year deal after an offseason of uncertainty, including a spell on the free-agent market. In the end, a $5 million offer and the Patriots’ interest were just too tempting for Talib, who said that he was happy with the resolution.
“It’s a great organization, great team. This is where I wanted to be,” Talib added. “I’m happy I’m here. Ready to get to work.”
Now, entering his second season with the Patriots, Talib is much more comfortable with the way things work in New England. Most of all, he’s excited to spend an entire offseason fully acclimating to the defense and entire philosophy of the franchise.
“It’s always good to, you know, have the whole offseason, the whole training camp and everything with the same group,” Talib said. “You know, build that camaraderie. You know how each other speak on the field, learn the terminology. So, that’s all good.”
After a few months away from the field, Talib seemed excited to put the pads back on and he was impressive in his first action of the offseason.
Talib lined up on the left side of the defense, opposite fellow cornerback Kyle Arrington, who got the reps on the outside with the first-team defense. Second-year corner Alfonzo Dennard and the talented but injury-prone Ras-I Dowling were the pairing on the outside with the second team.
All four of them were impressive in their own rights, but Talib’s effort and focus were difficult to ignore. He stuck with his man in stride nearly every time down the field and even had a few nice pass breakups.
One practice in the middle of May won’t tell how a player is going to play come Week 17 or even Week 1, but Talib understands that and is embracing the opportunity to get back to the fundamentals.
“It’s a new year,” Talib said. “Every year, you start from scratch, learn the playbook from scratch, get in shape from scratch. You start the whole process over, so that’s what we are doing now.
“Like I said, you get in good shape and you get the basics of the defense down. Before you start game planning for anybody, you gotta have the basics of your defense down and that’s what we’re getting down right now.”
The Patriots still have three weeks of OTAs remaining before minicamp, two months before training camp and three-and-a-half months until their regular season opener. That may seem like a long time, but Talib knows how important this time can be and he’s using every opportunity to get better — even if it means suffering from the heat.
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