Newly signed middle linebacker Brandon Spikes said Monday he aims to bring some old-school toughness to the Buffalo Bills.
“I don’t know no other way to play the game,” Spikes said on a conference call with reporters. “I grew up playing aggressive and watching the elite, all the older guys that paved the way for us. … All the old-school, throwback linebackers, I just molded my game after them. I really don’t want to call it intimidating. I’m just playing how I know, just go all-out relentless. Play every play like it’s your last.”
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Spikes signed a one-year contract to join the Bills on Saturday. As a starter for the New England Patriots the last four seasonss, Spikes was one of the top run-stopping inside linebackers in the NFL. In fact, the website ProFootballFocus.com rated him No. 1 each of the last two years against the run among inside linebackers.
Spikes is aware the Bills are hoping he will help improve a run-defense that ranked 28th in the NFL last year.
“I actually saw there was like seven games where they gave up 150 yards on the ground,” he said. “I just want to come help them out. That’s one of my strengths, the run. And I feel like I can help, whatever they need me to do, I’m willing to do and do it at a high level. I’m excited for the challenge.”
Spikes clearly has some strong feelings about his departure from the Pats. The Patriots did not make an effort to bring Spikes back. New England has three good linebackers on the roster. But the perception in New England is Pats coach Bill Belichick did not think Spikes marched to the coaches’ beat as much as they wanted. He was the only Pats player who did not participate in any offseason workouts last year. He’s outspoken on Twitter, not a common trait among Patriots.
Shortly after signing his deal with the Bills, Spikes Tweeted:
“Free at last, free at last. I thank God I’m free at last. Free at last, Free at last!!!!!!”
Spikes mostly sidestepped talk of his Pats departure Monday.
“I just want to kind of close that chapter,” he said. “I just want to put that all behind me. It just feels great to have a new beginning. Like I said I’m excited about this. The past is the past. I wasn’t happy. But like I said, I’m happy now and I’m ready to get to work and I’m ready to help.”
Spikes reportedly was late to a Friday bye-week practice in January on a day in which there was a snowstorm. Shortly after, the Pats put him on the injured-reserve list for the playoffs. Spikes played through a sore knee much of the season.
Despite his good play. Spikes signed only a one-year contract. It’s worth $3.25 million.
Asked if he thinks he has something to prove to the league, Spikes said: “It is what it is. My whole life I’ve always had something to prove. It just helps me put some fuel on the fire, keep that burning sensation that I have inside of me for the game.”
Is Spikes a high-maintenance player? Bills Wall-of-Famer Fred Smerlas thinks so. Smerlas lives in the Boston area and is a regular analyst on Boston sports radio.
“I’m not sure I would take a chance on a guy the Patriots thought wasn’t a good enough guy in the locker room,” Smerlas told The News.
“The Patriots are very structured,” Smerlas added. “Belichick puts up with no crap. … He got put on IR because he missed a meeting and got a little out of line.”
The Bills no doubt know exactly what kind of player and teammate they are getting.
Bills defensive line coach Pepper Johnson spent the last 13 years coaching in New England and the last two as Spikes’ position coach.
Spikes said Johnson’s presence was a big factor in his desire to sign with the Bills.
“I get to be reunited with the great Pepper Johnson, so I was definitely happy about that, and they’re doing great things,” Spikes said. “He’s a great coach and a great inspiration to the game. He loves the game. He’s definitely what I want to be down the road. He’s a legendary ballplayer and coach. He just knows the game, and I respect him as a man and as a coach.”
Spikes has one other connection to the Bills. He’s a cousin of former Bills linebacker Takeo Spikes, who played in Buffalo from 2003 to 2006.
“He’s just told me there’s no other fan base like this in the NFL,” Spikes said. “The fans, I always appreciate them. From what I hear it reminds me, of my old Florida Gator days. The fans there are such passionate fans. It definitely helped me play hard with an edge.”