|Newly acquired Patriots CB Aqib Talib practices Wednesday. He's been given a clean slate in New England. (US Presswire)|
Aqib Talib turned down a request to stroll through the dark paths branching off memory lane. He's tired of it -- been there too many times. Fighting a reputation created through a smattering of newspaper ink and sound bites has proved fruitless. So, he's done with it.
His new approach? Think whatever you want about him as a human being, but he's going to force your opinion on the field. Or, at least that's what a very wise person in the New England Patriots' public relations department told him to say during his first meeting with the media since being traded from Tampa Bay to New England on Nov. 2.
"I'll let [the media] deal with all the perceptions and all that," Talib said. "I'm just coming in and doing what's asked of me -- learn as quick as possible and see what I can do to help.”
Acquired along with a seventh-round pick in exchange for a fourth-round pick, Talib arrives in New England as a beacon of hope. The Patriots don't care that he was once arrested for firing shots at his sister's fiancé or that he was recently suspended for taking a performance-enhancing drug, later identified as Adderall, and was unable to join the team until Monday.
He's been given a clean slate and it will remain that way as long as he stays on the right side of the law and helps New England's pass defense, ranked 29th in the league, return to respectability.
So far, he's doing and saying all the right things. His teammates have been impressed with how much time he's put in with the coaches learning the defensive terminology and schemes, and with how quickly he's assimilated himself into the tight bond that exists among the team's defensive backs.
"The guys have been great, man," Talib said. "They've embraced me and I love the team already."
And for now, they love him back. Keeping it that way should be no problem on the field. Talib will immediately become the most talented coverage corner on the roster the first time he suits up for a game. And if he's serious about turning over a new leaf, there shouldn't be too many inquiries about the things that exist around those dark corners.
Welker still out: Patriots wide receiver Wes Welker missed his second consecutive practice due to a left-ankle injury that he's been battling since October.
Spikes is a punk, so what of it?: The Buffalo Bills' Ryan Fitzpatrick made headlines last week for calling Patriots LB Brandon Spikes a “punk” for a late hit he delivered to the quarterback, and for the way that he celebrated after knocking RB Fred Jackson out of the game with a concussion in the fourth quarter.
If that makes Spikes a punk, then, well, he's OK with that.
“I'm a passionate player, I love what I do,” Spikes said. “I get a kick out of it. I go to bed thinking about ball, I wake up thinking about ball. You can see it when I'm playing. My teammates love it when I go out and play for them.”
Spikes said he hasn't received a fine from the league for his hit on Fitzpatrick, but he expects a letter to arrive in the coming days. He won't let that change the way he approaches the game, though.
“It kind of takes some of the aggression out of my game,” Spikes said. “But, hey, I gotta do business as business is done.”
Nick Underhill covers the Patriots for MassLive.com. Follow him on Twitter @CBSPats or @Nick_Underhill.