CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Aqib Talib walked with crutches at the Broncos' private ring ceremony in June. His health and status seemed uncertain, tempering the joy of the greatest team accomplishment in his career.
The Pro Bowl cornerback suffered a gunshot wound in two places in his right leg on June 5 in Dallas. Surgery was not required, and he was treated and released from the hospital. The injury forced him to miss the Broncos' visit to the White House, and cast doubt on his future in Denver. The Dallas police department continues to investigate the incident in an attempt to determine Talib's role. He told police he was too intoxicated to remember what happened.
Without resolution of the law, the NFL has not determined whether to discipline Talib. The Broncos are moving "full speed ahead," as general manager John Elway put it, believing Talib will be available to start on Thursday.
"We have heard nothing," Elway said Saturday afternoon. "It would be very disappointing if we heard something at this point in time."
The Broncos experienced something similar last season. The NFL suspended starting strong safety T.J. Ward for the season opener for violating the NFL's personal-conduct policy for an incident at a Denver strip club nearly 15 months prior. It revealed the lag in the league's discipline. Talib understands he's fortunate to start given the nature of his injury, which caused him to sit out the first 10 days of training camp.
"I'm blessed. I definitely continue to say my prayers every morning and every night," admitted Talib, who said "the incident is under review" when asked last month if he shot himself. "It's definitely a blessing to be able to suit up for this first game.”
Elway denied an ESPN report that the Broncos were shopping Talib, labeling it, "False. False."
With Talib in the fold, the Broncos' "No Fly Zone" remains full strength and possibly stronger than ever. The secondary believes it can improve in its second year in coordinator Wade Phillips' system. The Broncos finished with 14 interceptions, tied for 13th, and 10 fewer than the league-best Carolina Panthers. Facing the Panthers in a Super Bowl 50 rematch can help given the amount of study devoted to the opponent.
"We love the challenge. You can take a lot from last year," Talib said. "I kept my notes, so it's pretty much similar stuff. Both teams will be amped up."
Talib crossed the line in Super Bowl 50, penalized twice for personal fouls. He was fined $26,044 for his actions, which included a facemask of Carolina receiver Philly Brown. Talib admitted he did it on "on purpose" to send a message. Brown, like Talib, appears ready to move on.
"Aqib Talib don't run my life," Brown told Carolina reporters on Sunday.