It has been five years since Aqib Talib was a Patriot — five years since he helped Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and company reach the AFC Championship game.
Still, the value the elite-level cornerback provided in his year and a half with New England isn’t forgotten.
“He taught me a lot,” safety Devin McCourty told reporters as the Patriots prepared to face the Rams in Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta next Sunday. “He was a veteran guy coming in, feisty, very scrappy guy, but we still remain good friends to this day. I think that’s the fun part of playing in the league for a while. You have former teammates. You have friends that you get to compete against. He’s one guy that I know will be playing his best football on the other side of the field.”
After four years with the Broncos, Talib was dealt in March to the Rams. He helped lead them to a 13-win season and their first Super Bowl berth since 2001, when they called St. Louis home. His streak of Pro Bowls was snapped at five, in part because he missed eight games with an ankle injury, but when Talib played, the Rams went 8-2.
At 32 years old, it doesn’t appear he has lost much. He allowed fewer than 45 yards in nine of his 10 games and just 29 yards this postseason, according to Pro Football Focus.
“You see it even in their team, how much better they played on defense with him,” McCourty said. “He’s a leader. I think he really gets guys to follow him when he goes out there and plays, and I thought he brought a great edge to our team when he came for the two years he was here.”
Both sides have had plenty of success since they parted ways. Talib won a Super Bowl with the Broncos in 2015 and reached five consecutive Pro Bowls. The Patriots won two Super Bowls and are gunning for their sixth since 2001. But they know they have to be wary of their former teammate.
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“As we know, Talib’s got great hands, makes some tough catches,” Belichick said. “If you make a mistake around him, it’s not an incompletion. It could be going the other way.“I mean, you’ve got to worry about [him and fellow cornerback Marcus Peters] not just intercepting the ball — you’ve got to worry about them intercepting and running back for a touchdown, too.”
But Talib also has plenty to worry about — he’s facing the greatest quarterback of all time, in his opinion.
“He’s the GOAT, man — one of the best to do it,” he said of Brady. “Super competitive guy, and he’s really like the offensive coordinator on the field.”