Spikes: 'Defense showing signs of being great'


Spikes: 'Defense showing signs of being great'

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."

What if Belichick had coached the Ravens? 'I think we would've been competitive'


What if Belichick had coached the Ravens? 'I think we would've been competitive'

FOXBORO -- Ever wonder what might've been if Bill Belichick had remained the coach of the Browns, and later the Ravens, after they moved from Cleveland? He says he doesn't.

"I haven't spent a lot of time thinking about it, no," Belichick told Baltimore reporters during a conference call on Wednesday. "I try to think ahead and make the best of the situation that I’m in, which is what I tried to do when I was in Cleveland. I took a team that wasn’t very good in 1991, prior to free agency and all of that, had a real good team in 1994. The team moved in 1995."

The decision to move the team helped undo the Browns season in 1995, and Belichick was later fired. There's little denying, though, that he left the pieces of a competitive roster behind. And he helped stock the Ravens' cupboard with valuable assets.

Five years after Belichick's tenure in Cleveland had expired, the franchise won a Super Bowl with linebacker Ray Lewis -- drafted with a pick Belichick had acquired -- as its foundational piece. 

"We made a trade that provided two first-round picks that Ozzie [Newsome] did a great job with," Belichick continued. "Ozzie and Ray Lewis were two of the cornerstones of that eventual championship team.

"I have a lot of confidence in my ability, I had a lot of confidence in the coaching staff and the players that we had at that time – 1995 wasn’t obviously a great year for us. I don’t think we need to talk about that. We all know what happened. But yeah, I think we would have been competitive if I had been the head coach there. I think we would have been competitive. We had a good team, we had a good staff, and we had a lot of good players.

"Ozzie did a good job with that team and made it better, and they won a championship five years later [with] some of the same players that we started with. But you know, it wasn’t my choice, Ted [Marchibroda] came in there and was going to transition that for what they needed at that point in time. But I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about it, no."

Bennett not practicing, Foster spends some time with receivers


Bennett not practicing, Foster spends some time with receivers

FOXBORO -- Martellus Bennett could use a rest, and the Patriots had him sit out for the start of Wednesday's practice.

The 6-foot-7 tight end is dealing with ankle and shoulder issues that have limited him in practice in recent weeks, and he missed an appearance at a preschool on Tuesday with what a representative called an illness. During Sunday's game against the Rams, Bennett's physical ailments clearly limited him as he had difficulty both as a blocker and as a receiver. 

The Patriots also went without safety Jordan Richards, receiver Danny Amendola and special teams captain Matthew Slater at the start of practice. Richards suffered a knee injury against the Jets in Week 12 and missed practice time last week. Amendola endured an ankle injury against the Rams and left the game iin the third quarter. Slater is dealing with a foot injury that has kept him out of the last two games. 

Patriots corner Eric Rowe was present for the start of Wednesday's practice, but he was not spotted with other corners after a couple of drills. Rowe injured his hamstring late in the third quarter against the Rams and did not return. 

Patriots running back DJ Foster was spotted with receivers near the end of the team's media-availability period Wednesday after working out with running backs to start the session. Foster played receiver for a year in college after beginning his collegiate career as a running back. If the Patriots want depth at wideout with Amendola injured, Foster could be an option.