For a while Tuesday, there was a sense Brandon Spikes had his mouth rinsed out with soap in the Bills’ public-relations washing machine before his first meeting with the Buffalo media. He was almost too sterile, too judicious before the microphone, to suspect otherwise.
Spikes was sure to express gratitude toward the Patriots, who viewed him as a one-dimensional linebacker and insulted him by allowing him to become a free agent. Spikes said via Twitter, his favorite sounding board, that it would be “icing on my cake to hand the #Patriots two big L’s this year. #justwatch.”
But he changed his tune, and his tone, when he was asked about them Tuesday.
“I was fortunate enough to get drafted by them and I’ll always be grateful to them and” owner Robert “Kraft and the whole entire organization,” Spikes said. “It was a good run. That’s all behind me. I’m ready to move on with a new organization. I’m ready to get to work.”
It was almost as if Spikes polished his abrasive personality. Fortunately, it wasn’t long before he found his comfort zone. By the time he was finished, he sent the proper message and hit the right notes with eternal optimists in Buffalo, many of whom were in the palm of his hand before he uttered a word.
Spikes mentioned how he wakes up every day and checks in with #billsmafia, his newfound blood brothers and sisters on Twitter, to get into the right frame of mind and give him a daily boost. He makes no apologies for past statements about the Patriots or anyone else, reminding everyone that we live in a free country.
He ripped Ray Rice on Twitter, for example, after video emerged showing the Ravens running back assaulting his girlfriend, whom he later married. “That’s him trying to save his image duh,” Spikes tweeted.
Spikes was on a roll April 9, after signing with the Bills, and tweeting the aforementioned crack about the Patriots and the following gems over 13 minutes.
“Great games on the schedule for 2014, but it’s going to be like Christmas to hand the #Patriots #PatriotsNation a L...twice! #BILLSMAFIA.”
That was followed by: “4 years a slave.”
It didn’t take long before the oversensitive masses stirred, from the Patriots’ apologists – not to be confused with delusional Sabres loyalists – to Bills backers who feared they added a loose cannon. Patriots offensive lineman Logan Mankins brushed off the comments as “Spikes being Spikes.”
“What do you want me to say?” Spikes said. “I said some things. I said it. I meant it, and it’s over with. I’m ready to move on. All that’s in the past. I’m in a great organization, a great team.”
Spikes seemed to brace for a backlash, but it certainly wasn’t coming from me Tuesday. Are you kidding? The NFL needs more guys like him, more characters who are unafraid to share their opinions without worrying about getting buried by the very media that begs for colorful personalities.
He has a Charles Barkley-like charm to him, a gift for making people wince and nod their heads in agreement at the same time. They’re refreshing, a departure from a country that’s wound too tight, takes every word to the nth degree and pounces on anything remotely near politically incorrect.
“I say that exact name,” Spikes said. “I’m not on Charles’ level, but I love watching him and the rest of the guys. People want to hear the truth. A lot of people can’t handle it but, hey, it is what it is.”
Frankly, I couldn’t get enough of the guy Tuesday. He didn’t come off like some knucklehead lacking perspective and needing a filter between his brain and mouth. He wasn’t obnoxious. He understood his place and was comfortable enough, and strong enough, to share opinions even if it led to a good spanking.
Can we say spanking or is that too harsh?
Anyone with half a brain knew Spikes, who already has made more money than he ever imagined, was not comparing his time with the Patriots to slavery. It was a reference to the movie “12 Years a Slave” and a message about the Patriots placing him on injured reserve because it served them, not him, after he insisted he was healthy enough to return. He could have said “piece of meat.” But heaven forbid, we might offend lions and tigers.
Is this really necessary?
He talked about his appreciation for the Bad Boys, the rough-and-tumble Pistons teams from the late 1980s and early ’90s with Bill Laimbeer and Dennis Rodman. Spikes wasn’t old enough to remember them, but he knew enough about them. They punched first and asked questions later. They also won two championships.
“Everybody’s got opinions,” Spikes said. “You have to respect that. Me, personally, I got a big mouth. I talk a lot of trash. I feel like I can back it up. It helps me play with an edge. I have to go out there and perform. I like that pressure. I embrace that. I love challenges. It brings me to the next level.”
And that brings me to the reason Spikes is here, which is helping the Bills reach the next level. It happens to be the same reason his distant cousin, Takeo Spikes, was signed 11 years ago. The Bills were desperate for help at linebacker, in this case inside linebacker, after getting trampled in the running game last season.
The Bills believe Spikes, who will wear his cousin’s No. 51, can help make a difference and lead them to the playoffs. Spikes is one of the better tacklers in the league. It certainly doesn’t hurt that he brings a winning attitude that was cultivated in New England.
He comes with bite that’s been missing. He talked about playing a relentless style at high speed. “I don’t know any other speed,” he said. He’s already sat down with the Bills linebacking corps. Kiko Alonso will move to outside linebacker, where he can make better use of his speed and athleticism.
“We just discussed kicking butt, just dominating, it’s that simple,” he said. “Dominating for four quarters and destroying the team across from us. I’m anxious to get to work with them.”
So what’s not to like?
Spikes took the risk of signing a one-year contract, with encouragement from Takeo, because he wanted to prove he can play in all situations. Even if he helps only against the run, he will be an upgrade. And if the Bills beat the Patriots, twice, it will mean they have a very good team and playoff contender.
“It just feels right for me,” Spikes said. “It feels right. I’ve always been one to embrace challenges. Whatever they say, ‘you can’t do this’ or ‘you can’t do that,’ OK, let me show you. It’s that simple for me.”
He sounded like someone who was ready to let his play do his talking for him. OK, let him show you. #justwatch.