FOXBORO — Aqib Talib isn’t hearing any talk about his health being an issue.
“I feel like everybody else,” he said Thursday. “It’s Week 16, and there isn’t anybody in the NFL who is 100 percent. It’s football, man.
“This ain’t my first rodeo.”
Talib, who has struggled with hip problems on and off throughout the season, started strong but has appeared to drop off a bit as of late. There’s no telling how much of his problems are due to the hip issue (he was limited at Thursday’s practice because of the hip), but he knows he’s in for a challenge this week. The Ravens feature some of the better deep threats in the game — the Ravens have 13 pass plays of 40 or more yards this season, good for third-best in the league, trailing only the Eagles (18) and Browns (14). Torrey Smith (59 catches, 1,032 yards, four touchdowns and 17.5 yards per catch), Marlon Brown (40 catches, 443 yards, six touchdowns) and Jacoby Jones (35 catches, 433 yards, two touchdowns) all have an ability to connect with quarterback Joe Flacco when it comes to the deep ball.
Talib had plenty of good things to say about the Baltimore receiving corps, particularly the speed of Smith, who he called “one of” the fastest receivers in the league.
“We don’t even have to talk about that. You know how fast he is. We all know how fast he is,” Talib said. “He’s up there. Put him up there with the [Mike] Wallaces and Calvin Johnsons. Man, they’re burners.”
One thing that Patriots coach Bill Belichick indicated earlier in the week was that the Baltimore offense has changed a bit since the return of Dennis Pitta — Belichick said it appears that the Ravens have favored more three-receiver sets since the tight end came back from injury. Pitta, who burned New England on several occasions in last year’s AFC title game, is still ramping back up after spending the bulk of the season sidelined, is still a factor.
“He’s key for them,” Talib said. “[Joe Flacco] goes to him a lot over the middle, in third-down situations. That’s one of his go-to guys. He’s key for them.”
Talib and the Patriots (10-4) are looking to close out the regular season on an up note, while the Ravens (8-6) are in must-win mode — currently holding on to the No. 6 seed in the AFC playoff race, they have to win to keep their postseason hopes alive.
“It’s a big game for the both of us,’ Talib said. “So I’m sure they’re preparing like we’re preparing. It should be a good one.”