Friday, March 14, 2014
Following up on Brandon Spikes
By Mike Rodak
When considering the possibility of linebacker Brandon Spikes signing with the Buffalo Bills, a few thoughts came to mind.
I covered Spikes from 2010-12 in New England. On the field, he brought a physical presence to the Patriots that they missed when he wasn't in the lineup. Off the field, Spikes drew attention for often the wrong reasons.
Here's my attempt to sort through some of those observations about Spikes:
Commitment to team: It became increasingly clear last summer that Spikes and the Patriots were destined for a divorce. Spikes was the only Patriots player not to participate in voluntary workouts in Foxboro. He was training back home in Florida and word was that he wanted to become a "three-down player," something that he had trouble proving in New England. When Spikes reported to mandatory minicamp in June, he answered for his absence.
"I just feel like I was trying to put myself in the best position to compete for a spot on the team, and also help this team win a championship," Spikes said. "You guys know me -- I do things a little different from everybody else. I don't think that's bad or a shocker. Honestly, if everybody in this world was a [conformist], it would be one boring place." It's hard to fault Spikes for wanting to be different, but it was also easier to question Spikes' commitment to the team after that decision. Along those lines, his participation in offseason workouts would be something to watch if he signs with the Bills.
Twitter comments: The Patriots had to deal with a public relations stir in October 2012, when Spikes tweeted the following: "I'm homophobic just like I'm arachnophobic. I have nothing against homosexuals or spiders, but I'd still scream if I found one in my bathtub !" He later called the tweet a "joke," but I remember the incident attracted national media attention that week. One local TV station sent a reporter into the locker room to ask players if they felt there was a problem with tolerance on the team. It created an uncomfortable situation and was surely something the team wanted to avoid. I'm assuming that the Bills would also prefer not to have something similar arise.
And if Spikes signs with the Bills, this is a tweet he would probably want back.
Effect of upbringing: Adding to the complexity of Spikes was his upbringing in North Carolina. Spikes' brother was sentenced to life in prison for first-degree murder, while his mother worked 12-hour days in a fiberglass plant. In an interview with the Boston Herald -- available in whole here -- Spikes talked about his childhood and his style of play. Spikes described himself as, "a crazed dog just looking to seek, destroy, kill anything that moves. If you're not in that red, blue and white, I don't know what to say. I'm trying to destroy you any way I can, any chance I get. Any edge I can get to beat you on that play, I'm going to do it. I feel like I leave it all out there on the field. I feel like my teammates know I leave it all out, and they respect that. A lot of people respect that."
Fitzpatrick's thoughts: Spikes' style of play crossed the line at times. After a helmet-removing hit on Ryan Fitzpatrick in November 2012, the former Bills quarterback called Spikes a "punk ... he's not one of my favorite players." Fitzpatrick isn't on the Bills anymore, but another player who was outspoken about Spikes still is -- center Eric Wood. "He's a headhunter," Wood said after that same game. If Spikes signs with the Bills, his reception within the locker room would be something to monitor.
Influence of Pepper Johnson: If Spikes lands in Buffalo, one of the most important factors could be the presence of defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, who coached Spikes for the past two seasons in New England. As a former player, Johnson seemed to connect well with Spikes, even where there was an apparent disconnect between Spikes and Bill Belichick. If there was ever an incident that created tension between Doug Marrone and Spikes, having Johnson as an intermediary may help.