Brandon Spikes hopes some of the “Patriot Way” rubs off on the Buffalo Bills.
His teammates feel the same way.
That was evidenced this week when Spikes was voted one of the Bills’ six team captains, even though he’s yet to play a regular-season game as a member of the team.
“It’s an honor,” said Spikes, who signed a one-year contract in Buffalo after starting his career playing four seasons in New England. “It just feels good that these guys respect me. I’ve always been a guy that played for the guy next to me. That’s the whole thing – I don’t want to let them down, most importantly. I want to play well for my family, but the guy next to me, he’s here with me working every day.”
Spikes was never an elected captain with the Patriots, but leadership was a role he embraced in New England.
“I’m pretty sure my teammates will vouch for me, and they know that I led by example,” he said.
Spikes said he considered himself “fortunate” to start his career with the Patriots, who went 51-13 in the regular season and made it to at least the divisional round of the playoffs the past four seasons.
“I took a lot of stuff from that. They taught me how to be a professional each and every day,” Spikes said. “I definitely try to bring that over here for the younger guys to watch. Just as far as the ins and outs, all the smaller things people kind of take for granted, you’ve got to really work on all of that to keep you around for a long time. You just don’t get away from fundamentals and technique and film study, that’s what makes you a pro.”
Spikes’ leadership is particularly important in a linebacker room that has a pair of rookies – Preston Brown and Randell Johnson – and another young player in third-year veteran Nigel Bradham.
“He’s a great communicator. He knows all the spots, everybody’s fits,” Johnson said. “It’s good having a person like that. Coming from a Super Bowl team, a lot of people respect him. Being a linebacker in the room with him, he just brings so much to the table. He’s a great leader for us.”
Spikes will play a key role in the Bills’ defense this season. His strength – stuffing the run – happened to be a big weakness for the Bills in 2013.
They’ll be tested right out of the gate this year, starting Sunday in Chicago. Bears running back Matt Forte finished second in the NFL with 1,339 yards a season ago.
Playing mostly a two-down role with the Patriots last year, Spikes made 86 tackles, one interception and one fumble recovery. For his career, he’s got 286 tackles in 51 career games (39 starts) with 12 passes defended, two interceptions and five forced fumbles.
In limited action with the Bills’ starters this season, Spikes made 12 tackles – including six against Tampa Bay in the game in which the starters saw the most action.
“Honestly, I don’t know. I guess it’s just the way my teammates and my peers view me,” Spikes said of what makes him such an effective leader. “They see me coming to work with my lunch pail trying to get better each and every day, and they respect that. A lot of guys here, I’ve played against them as well the last four years, so they just know what I bring to the table.”
Spikes isn’t the only first-year member of the Bills to be elected captain. Buffalo native Corey Graham will also serve in that role. A member of the Baltimore Ravens’ Super Bowl championship team two seasons ago, Graham presumably represents the special teams as a captain, given his acumen in that role.
“I think they’ve done a very good job … both on the field and off the field with the way they’ve handled themselves,” Bills coach Doug Marrone said of Spikes and Graham. “I don’t want to say they were rewarded for it by being named a captain. I think that’s what people saw. They saw that leadership and they saw that they can handle things and that’s why they were elected by their peers to be the captains.”
Spikes and Graham were signed for their ability to help the Bills on the field, Marrone said, but the leadership they’ve provided has been an added benefit.
“It’s always based on who can help us win football games first,” Marrone said, “but that’s a great thing.”