Spikes' four-game NFL suspension at the end of the 2010 season -- for testing positive for a banned substance under the NFL’s steroids and related substances policy -- was a blow to both the Patriots and his progression as a player.
He still has nightmares about it, with the suspension serving as a springboard for how he’s approached this year.
“I just want to be a better man and a better player,” Spikes said Sunday after the team’s morning practice, acknowledging that it stunted the momentum he had built through the first 12 games of his career. “I just want to learn from that and be a better man, don’t do the same thing twice. That’s my ambition.”
Spikes, who as a rookie teamed with Pro Bowler Jerod Mayo as part of a promising combination in the team’s 3-4 alignment, couldn’t report to Gillette Stadium during his suspension. He returned for the playoff loss to the Jets, but coach Bill Belichick kept him out of the starting lineup in place of Gary Guyton, and during that week, Spikes didn’t publicly address his suspension.
On Sunday, he revealed that the progress he had made was affected “a lot” by the suspension, so he committed himself to a Florida-based offseason of hard work to re-establish himself, splitting time between the southern part of the state and Gainesville, where he attended college at the University of Florida. Most of his training was with college teammates, including current Patriots Jermaine Cunningham and Aaron Hernandez, Raiders receiver Louis Murphy, Vikings receiver Percy Harvin and Eagles receiver Riley Cooper, among others.
“It was all about attacking my weaknesses. I still need improvement and was just trying to focus on that,” he said. “I’m looking forward to the season.”
Spikes has made an early impression in camp, once again lining up alongside Mayo. During Saturday’s full-pads practice, he charged toward the line of scrimmage and delivered a crushing blow on offensive lineman Mark LeVoir, rocking him back.
“It was just a regular, normal run play and that’s what I do, get downhill and kind of let my presence be felt; that intimidation, that demeanor on the field, that passion I play with, that’s what I’m all about,” he said.
“You never know when it’s your last play. I just try to go hard in practice and that goes on to the game field.”