Updated: July 27, 2014 at 8:10 am
DENVER - Carrying his helmet and a quizzical look, Aqib Talib sauntered over to fellow cornerback Bradley Roby with a question.
Hold on. The All-World cornerback interrogating the NFL rookie? Please explain.
"I was trying to learn myself, seeing what they was in and what he was looking at," Talib said after his second practice as a member of the Broncos. "So I don't make the same mistake."
Good start, Mr. Talib. Interceptions, good. Mistakes, bad. He's had enough already.
On Sunday, Broncos Country gets a first-hand look at the cover corner who can lock up the best receivers in the NFL while somehow managing to avoid being locked up himself. The Broncos host an 11:30 a.m. open practice at Sports Authority Field.
It is quite a precarious tightrope act that Talib has performed in the NFL. Let's all hope this is one of the few times we have to read about it.
But it's worth knowing, just in case the volcano erupts again.
See, in a perfectly orange-and-blue world, you won't hear much about Talib in his first season with the Broncos. The less you read about the All-Pro defender, the better. On the field, you rarely want to hear about the cornerback, because if you do, that usually means he got beat. That doesn't happen often with Talib, who blankets NFL wide receivers like a 6-foot-1, 205-pound straightjacket. He ranks as one of the top-three cover guys in the league. That's what Broncos safety T.J. Ward told me, and Boss Ward isn't in the business of mincing words.
Off the field, you rarely want to hear about Talib, either. Put it this way: if you had a rap sheet that resembled his, you wouldn't have a job that pays $12 million annually.
NFL suspensions. Fights with teammates. Burglary charge. Assault charge. That whole allegation of shooting-a-gun-at-another-human thing in 2011.
As much as Talib and the Broncos would prefer to ignore his past, there's no getting around it. These are things that happened.
"You know how you guys do it. You make things bigger than they really are," Talib said at his Broncos introduction, referring to the media. "I just think it was blown out of proportion. It's in the past, man. I'm older now and I do different things with my life."
Perhaps that's true, fingers crossed. Consider me among the few who's not sold.
There seem to be two Aqib Talibs. One is the gregarious, fun-loving teammate who, on Friday, could be seen mentoring the likes of Roby, Kayvon Webster and Tony Carter on the sideline at Dove Valley. On the practice field, he's always talking, teaching, trying his best to make teammates better. And his teams are better for it.
The other Talib is decidedly less endearing. We went over that already.
But man, can he ball. And in the convoluted world of professional sports, if you can ball, all the digressions, as slight or scary as they might be, fall to the wayside.
Talent trumps trouble almost every time. If there are five cornerbacks in the NFL who are superior to Talib, the passing games assuming control of the league are in trouble.
If you were to clone the ideal corner, Talib might be the blueprint. With a neon-orange undershirt and a towel flapping from his waistband, the Texas native stands out on the practice field. To borrow an ESPN scouting term, his physical abilities are freaky.
"Not only that, but he plays confident," wideout Emmanuel Sanders told me.
John Elway said Talib was the best cornerback to line up against the Broncos during the 2013 season.
"I'm not going to face too many corners with his size, his mindset, his physicality," Sanders said.
In the age of Richard Sherman, cornerbacks have replaced receivers as the selfie kings of football. So I asked him: Where do you rank in the hierarchy of corners?
"That's an offseason topic. Right now we're just trying to get ready for the season," Talib said. "All that talk about best corner, we're just trying to be the best team."
And what defines a great season for Talib?
"Super Bowl, man," he said. "Gotta win it."