Chris Diamantopoulos didn’t exactly nail the role of Moe Howard in “The Three Stooges: The Movie” so perhaps Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib was taking his shot at playing the iconic Stooges leader.
Except there certainly wasn’t anything playful about the star cornerback’s eye poke of Colts tight end Dwayne Allen in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game, an egregious penalty which gifted Indianapolis a first down and sealed the upset for Chuck Pagano’s struggling team.
The NFL suspended Talib one game for the transgression, a punishment the veteran Pro Bowler plans to fight.
“I mean they’re entitled to discipline me,” Talib told a group of reporters on Monday. “I think I deserve discipline. I didn’t (intentionally) poke him in his eye, but as you can see, I did get his eye. It was unintentional. They’ve got the right to discipline me, as they did.”
Because none of us was actually in Talib’s head when he took aim at Allen like he was the lesser stooge, it’s hard to say with 100 percent certainty that the Denver cornerback meant to poke the bigger man in the eye but if you want to use the so-called bar test, well it would be tough to find anyone other than those that willfully drink the orange and blue Kool-Aid who doesn’t think the intent was there.
Heck, even Talib’s own coach, Gary Kubiak, told the star corner he needs to control his emotions better in the heat of battle.
“(Kubiak) just told me that I’ve got to be smarter than that,” Talib admitted. “He was telling me everything that I already knew. I know that I’ve got to be smarter than that. (I have) got to make better decisions, especially in that time of the game.
“We have full confidence that if we stop them on that third down with the two minutes (remaining), Peyton (Manning) will come down, score a touchdown and get that 187th win (as a starter) in dramatic fashion. I cost us the opportunity to go down and get those points. That’s kind of what we talked about on that plane.”
Talib is already the loser in the court of public opinion, which has all the video evidence it needs so Kubiak should have also advised Talib to let this one go, take his medicine and return refreshed for the stretch run.
That advice was never proffered, however, and even if it was, Talib likely wouldn’t have been listening.
“I had a long talk with him,” Kubiak said. “He’s wrong. He needs to stay out of the situation. It hurt the team. He knows that. But by no means did he — I’m convinced — have intentions of poking anybody in the eye. That’s where we’re at.”
That’s a tough narrative to sell but Talib is trying.
“I’ll appeal and try to get it a little bit more reasonable, just for the simple fact that it was not intentional,” Talib said. “I didn’t walk over there like, ‘I’m going to poke this guy in his eye.’ I know I shouldn’t have gone over there in the first place. I should have never gone over there and gotten involved in the situation. I did expect discipline.”
Any lawyer worth his salt can tell you premeditation can manifest in a split second and even if Talib starting walking toward Allen with no intention of treating him like Curly, the intent was obvious by the time he reached into the facemask.
“My emotions just got the best of me. I was a little heated in the situation, and I got involved in that little altercation, and that’s what I regret,” Talib said. “I just regret even going over there.”
For what it’s worth, the victim certainly believes it was intentional.
“You’re taught since little league football to play to the whistle within the boundaries of the game,” Allen said. “I just felt like Aqib, who is a heckuva player, Pro Bowl player, a guy of his caliber I look up to, went outside the boundary of the game and decided to take a cheap shot.
“Out of nowhere, I saw something, and it went into my eye. First time I’ve ever been poked in the eye intentionally when I’m not on the bottom of the pile. Very blurry. My eye is still really sore.”
Even after their first loss of the season the 7-1 Broncos hold a comfortable three-game lead over Oakland in the AFC West at the midway point with rival Kansas City on the docket for Sunday in the Rockies.
Division games are always tough and with both DeMarcus Ware, who is nursing a back injury, and Talib set to be sidelined, the margin of error will grow smaller for a team built on its defense.
And that’s the lesson Talib should learn.
Don’t let your team down with silly, undisciplined actions.
If it takes a one-game suspension for that message to get through, Kubiak and the Broncos should consider themselves lucky.
— John McMullen is a national football columnist for FanRagSports.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jfmcmullen — Also catch John this season on ESPN Southwest Florida every Monday at 3 PM ET; on ESPN Lexington every Thursday at 6:05 ET, and live every Tuesday from 2 to 6 PM ET at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City for the NFL Wraparound on ESPN South Jersey.
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