Spikes 'finally' getting consistent time

529144.jpg

Spikes 'finally' getting consistent time

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.

Tom E. Curran can be reached at tcurran@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Tom on Twitter at http:twitter.comtomecurran

Collins gets his pay day as Patriots prepare for Super Bowl

browns-collins-jamie-collins-012017x.jpg

Collins gets his pay day as Patriots prepare for Super Bowl

NFL Siberia can’t be all that bad. The Cleveland Browns have signed Jamie Collins to an extension that keeps him off the free agent market.

The former Patriot, stunningly shipped out of town on Halloween, has agreed to a reported four-year, $50 million deal with $26M in guaranteed money.

As eyebrow-raising as the move was at the time, this is an all’s well that ends well story.

Collins, a reluctant Patriot once it came clear the team wouldn’t to aim a confetti cannon of money at him, gets the desired big-dough deal. He didn’t drape himself in glory with his level of play this year in New England, but his agitation over making $900K this year was understandable.

The Patriots -- who made the deal not knowing exactly how it would work out with Collins’ fleet of replacements (primarily rookie Elandon Roberts and, October acquisition Kyle Van Noy) -- have played better defense since Collins has been gone and are headed to the Super Bowl.

Would they have been better if Collins stayed? The answer to that is a question: Which version of Collins, the irked one or the motivated one?

Collins did nothing to veil his desire for a huge contract, saying at the end of the season he’d stay with the hapless Browns if the money was right. Now that he’s decided the money was right, what kind of Collins will the Browns get? With $26M guaranteed, the Browns have tethered themselves to the 27-year-old Collins for a chunk of his prime. The shorter term is ideal for Collins because -- if he performs to his capability -- he’ll be able to see another lucrative deal before he’s too aged.

The deal will certainly be noticed by Collins’ former teammates, primarily Donta Hightower who will be a free agent at the end of the season.

The Patriots could franchise Hightower (last year’s tag number was more than $14M) but that’s not going to be ideal for either side. Hightower will want to get the windfall of guaranteed money that comes with a long-term deal and the Patriots may be reluctant to pay that much to a player that’s got an injury history and plays one of the game’s most violent positions.

A lot’s going to happen between now and the time the Patriots have to make their decision. A good deal of it will happen in the next 12 days. If Hightower stealthily saves the Super Bowl as he did in 2014 with his first-down tackle on Marshawn Lynch … how do you put a price on that?