TAMPA -- The best thing about Brandon Spikes for the Patriots so far in 2012?
He's available. His first two seasons in the league, the inside linebacker's talent, aggressiveness and enthusiasm were impossible to miss. But he missed. An MCL laid him low for a while last season; a performance-enhancing drug suspension cost him four games as a rookie.
But he's been a part of the budding Patriots' defense for virtually every practice (he did sit out the first preseason game). Patrolling the middle in the Patriots 4-3 alignment, Spikes, Jerod Mayo and rookie Dont'a Hightower are signaling during the fake season that they may become a high-performing linebackers crew.
"We're all SEC linebackers and we know we're really physical and we're athletic too," said Spikes when asked about the relationship between the three players. "Jerod can do it all, Hightower can do it all, I'm just a guy. I do my job. It's fun to have those guys around. As far as Jerod, he's a savvy vet, he does it the right way and I try to follow in his footsteps."
The style Spikes brings is something the Patriots have lacked. He's full-speed, downhill at all times. For a Patriots' defense that's been somewhat tentative and reactionary in recent years, a full-go Spikes brings needed attitude.
He's seemingly always been that way.
When rookie Jeff Demps was asked about going against Spikes in blitz pickup drills, Demps laughed and said, "He's crazy."
Apprised of that description, Spikes said, "I get a little amped up when it comes to blitz pickup. (But Demps) is a tough guy. I remember him putting his head in there, being a smaller guy. Lot of heart, lot of fight. I'm just happy he's on the team."
Spikes is well-liked by his teammates. He's got an irrepressible and unique world view, as anyone who's followed his Twitter feed can attest. And he's got huge University of Florida pride, as evidenced by his gushing about Demps.
"The speeed! Speed kills," said Spikes when asked if he's noticed the newly-signed, recent Olympian. "That's one thing he brings to the game. He can go anytime he gets the ball in our hands. It's good to have that threat on our offense."
But it's the defense that's the concern on this team. Or has been. Spikes articulated what has been somewhat evident in camp.
They're getting there.
"We've been showing signs of being great but we need to come in and put in the work every day," he said. "You need to try and get better, you can't stay the same. ... If we come out and stay humble every week and look at the game plan and execute it, we should be fine."
One last thing. Through most every camp interview, Spikes has kept his helmet on. Thursday, no helmet. Why's he been wearing the headgear?
"I'll tell you about that later, but no comment. No comment."