Englewood, Colo. Aqib Talib figures he has upgraded quarterbacks by moving to Denver, and he has definitely traded up when it comes to the wide receivers he’s facing in offseason workouts.
Talib, a former Kansas University standout, first weighed in on the Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady debate last week when he was a guest on the NFL Network, which chose him as one of the league’s top 100 players of 2013. He said that with all due respect to Brady, who will always be his friend, he’s now playing with the best quarterback in the business.
Manning said last week he hadn’t seen the segment, but he certainly returned the compliment, suggesting Talib — and therefore not Super Bowl champion cornerback Richard Sherman — “was probably the toughest corner that we played against last year.”
Talib was asked after the Broncos’ latest offseason practice Tuesday to expound upon his choice of Manning over Brady, and he said, “The question was, ‘Who won last year?’ It was an honest opinion. I mean, who had the better (season) last year? If you throw that many touchdowns and you won the last head-to-head, then you’ve got to say you had the better year last year.”
Manning threw an NFL-record 55 TD passes and beat Brady’s Patriots in the AFC championship game.
Talib was knocked out of that game when Wes Welker, another former Patriots player, took him out on a pick play at the line of scrimmage in the second quarter. Talib went to the locker room because of a bruised knee and didn’t return.
With the Patriots’ best cover player out, Manning finished with 400 yards passing and two TDs — nearly 300 of those yards coming with Talib sidelined. In his season-ending news conference the next day, Patriots coach Bill Belichick suggested Welker deliberately tried to hurt Talib and complained to the league about it. The NFL said no infraction had occurred.
When Talib signed a six-year, $57 million free agent deal with Denver this spring, he called Welker, “a good friend of mine,” and said, “I watched that play 1,000 times, and I can promise you he didn’t do it on purpose.”
With Welker in Denver along with Demaryius Thomas and newcomer Emmanuel Sanders, this group of wide receivers is the best Talib has had to work against in offseason practices in his six seasons in the NFL.
“I’ve had my hands full this whole time. One day I’ve got D.T., the big, fast, physical receiver. The next play I’ve got the shorter, quicker, speedy receiver in Emmanuel,” Talib said. “It’s great work out there.”
Not only is that preparing him for the 2014 season, but it’s showing his new team that he’s healthy. Talib, bothered by a thigh injury last season, has never played all 16 games in a season.
“My health is great. I feel great,” Talib said. “I’m out here moving, running with Emanuel and D.T. If I can run with them guys, then I must be feeling great.”