By Tom E. Curran
CSNNE.comFOXBORO -- Until about Week 12 of last season, the arc of Brandon Spikes' young career was going up at about 90 degrees. Then a four-game suspension after testing positive for a banned substance was followed by a poor performance in the playoff game against the Jets. A weird rumor about an offseason basketball injury, weird Twitter jibberish, a sudden and extended disappearance from all training camp activity and the preseason, and the arc was, shall we say, a bit less steep.
Nobody was using the word "gritty" when discussing Spikes. Spikes has re-emerged some in the past few weeks, playing about 70 percent of the defensive snaps in the Patriots' last three games. But head coach Bill Belichick passed on the opportunity to lob platitudes in Spikes' direction. "He missed so much playing time, practice time and play time during training camp and preseason so these last three weeks kind of have almost been like his preseason, unfortunately," Belichick explained. "I think that practicing on a daily basis, playing on a regular basis that thats what he needed to do. I think he still has a long way to go. Hes probably where a lot of our players were in September, just because he missed all of August."
Moving on from the missed time, Belichick was lukewarm about Spikes' on-field contributions.
"His timing, his overall reaction, his execution, all those things, theyre OK, they are coming along," Belichick said. "Id like to think theyll be better now that hes starting to get into game shape and reacting like you have to react on a football field, both mentally and physically. Hes doing some good things and hes still got a long way to go. The fact that hes been out there finally on a consistent basis to practice and play nothing has helped him more than that."
Bottom line? Spikes is playing now. But the fact that -- for a long stretch -- he didn't play or practice is not quite forgotten.