Polarize (v): To break up into opposing factions or groupings.
Aqib Talib is a polarizing player, right? He is undeniably fantastic on the field, a perennial Pro-Bowler and a pillar in the NFL's best secondary, but his off-the-field transgressions cause folks to think twice about him.
Just in the last 12 months, Talib shot himself in the leg in public, threw punches on the field (justifiably), shoved a teammate on the field, told another teammate to zip it in the locker room, and ripped a dude's chain off in the middle of a game... Add a couple more months onto the counter, and you can add a malicious facemask in the Super Bowl and an eye poke.
He's polarizing, right? In a sense, yes. Some fans love him for his play on the field; some fans hate him for his antics outside of the lines and after the whistle. There's one place where he isn't polarizing, though, and in the end, it's the only place that matters.
“Absolutely. You can’t replace Talib," Broncos' safety Darian Stewart said on Monday when asked if he was relieved to find out the Broncos star corner wouldn't be suspended for the leg-shooting incident last summer.
"He’s a hell of a player, an All-Pro player year in and year out, "Stewart added. "He’s a guy we count on week in and week out.”
He might be polarizing outside of the UC Health Traning Center, but inside, he's undisputed. Revered for his play on the field, respected for his value in the locker room. He's the one who keeps things light, the one who understands the business, the one who tells it like it is.
“If you want some honesty, go to Talib," said Stewart. "He’s not going to sugar coat nothing or beat around the bush. He’s going to tell you and he’s going to be honest with you. That’s all you can ask of somebody: Be honest.”
Is it shocking to see a player put his hands on a teammate after they screwed up? Certainly. Does it make headlines when it comes out that a player told a teammate to sit down when they were trying to lead? It does. But when it comes down to it, Talib is the one who does and what the others are simply thinking.
He's not an "everything is peachy" "let's all love each other" type of leader, he's a "this is how it is" "this is how it's going to be" type of leader, and the people in that locker room respect him. They respect him on many levels.
“Me and Talib had a lot of talks," Stewart explained. "I would say the biggest thing is the contract situation. Just dealing with it, I never really had this much money on the table. I asked Talib and he gave me his input, and I took it and ran with it. He told me, ‘Tomorrow is not promised.’ That’s the best advice I could have had.”
Aqib Talib is polarizing; he causes folks to divide into groups, it's just that the entire Broncos locker room is part of the group that supports him, so the rest of the opinions about him don't really matter.
On Wednesday, T.J. Ward perfectly described how much the guys in that locker room care about the outside noise.
“When he told me he wasn’t suspended, I was like, 'Oh, I didn’t even know you might be suspended.'"