Spikes tries to make a statement with his hits


Spikes tries to make a statement with his hits

FOXBORO -- Between the white lines, Brandon Spikes is as animated as they come. But for all of his mouthiness the cameras catch on the field, Spikes says it doesn't stop there.

"The whole time on the sideline I'm preaching," Spikes said Thursday. " 'Somebody make a play. Don't sit back and wait for the next man to do it.' Once one guy make a play, it goes through the whole defense. You feel the energy. You can see it."

Lately, he's answered his own call. Against the Bills in Week 4, Spikes laid game-changing hits to force two fumbles, both of which the Patriots recovered. One came on the goal line just before halftime, jarring the ball loose from Bills running back CJ Spiller. The next came in the fourth quarter, with the Patriots up seven, when Fred Jackson was knocked so forcefully that he let go of the ball.

Spikes finished the game with eight tackles in all, and his two forced fumbles were his second and third of the season, tying him for the league lead. It was a performance that inspired Patriots Hall of Famer and Comcast SportsNet analyst Troy Brown to call him the best run-stuffing linebacker in the NFL.

Generous characterization or not, it's clear Spikes is beginning to pop up on radars as one of the game's hardest hitters. And it's a reputation Spikes hopes to build upon.

"I just wanna kinda try to make a point," Spikes said. "When I hit a guy I want them to get him like, 'Oh that was Spikes who hit me. I know that already.' "

For those that don't know right away, they likely find out soon thereafter. All they have to do is listen, really. Spikes admits he's an excitable player, and after he makes a big play, he makes people aware. Oftentimes he'll yell or waive his arms or head-butt teammates.

His fellow Patriots don't seem to mind the young linebacker's energy, though.

"The way we try to play defense, you need someone like that," said Vince Wilfork, who singled out Spikes as the one Patriot by whom he'd never want to be hit.

"He gets us riled up off of hits, off of the things he says, the way he's bringing the game to him," Wilfork added. "He doesn't let the game slip away. He wants all the contact in the world. He's almost like a lineman, because of all the contact he looks for. That's a positive for us."

Spikes considers himself to be an old-school linebacker, big and unafraid. But he knows he needs to adapt his game to the here-and-now, especially when it comes to pass coverage. His performance against the Bills was a tale of two players, in a way. Yes, he showed impressive brute strength when he forced the two fumbles. But he also missed a chance to jam Bills tight end Scott Chandler before Chandler came down with a 20-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.

"Right now, as far as my performance, I've been inconsistent," Spikes said. "So if I can do all the little things and getting better each week, I feel like I'll have a great season."

Spikes has missed significant time in his short career due to injuries and a four-game suspension in 2010. He knows he's a big part of what the Patriots do on defense, and he believes that as he's matured, he's learned how to stay on the field.

"Whenever my number's called I wanna go out and play at a high level," he said. "But at the same time I gotta do all the smaller things when I'm not on the field as far as eating right, taking care of my body. When I was younger, when I first came into the league, I was still immature. I was trying to do it my way. I got a lot of great examples of guys on the Patriots I can learn from, great professionals. I just been watching them and just trying to just mimic those guys."

Something that's always been a part of his routine is playing basketball. Spikes, who fancies himself a finesse player on the court, claims it has helped his agility over the years.

And though he says hoops was his first love, it's clear by the effervescence with which he plays football that he's found his game.

"It's just something that comes natural," Spikes said. "I always have been like that. Ever since I was little I played with a lot of emotion, and I just love the game, as you can see. You can tell I'm having fun playing so it's just a part of me . . . I don't know any other way to play."

If his style continues to lead to big hits and game-altering plays, he'll never have to change.

Kusnierek: Lack of NFL discipline on Josh Brown disgraceful

Kusnierek: Lack of NFL discipline on Josh Brown disgraceful

Trenni Kusnierek is outraged, and rightfully so, by the actions - or lack thereof - by the NFL regarding domestic violence by Giants kicker Josh Brown.

Tom E. Curran details the NFL's botched investigation here.


Curran: NFL embarrasses itself yet again in Josh Brown case

Curran: NFL embarrasses itself yet again in Josh Brown case

In February, the New York Times did a fawning feature on Lisa Friel, the woman hired to make sure the NFL never had an investigatory embarrassment like the one they had in the Ray Rice case.

As the NFL’s Senior Vice President of Investigations, Friel would be relentless and undaunted, stated wrote Times reporter Dan Barry, who wrote:

The only issue (she declined even to call it a frustration) is the expectation by some of instant investigative findings following an allegation. Friel said that she was no longer in law enforcement, had no subpoena power and must pursue these cases more like a reporter or private investigator.

This means asking the local police department for incident reports, transcripts of 911 calls, photographs, interviews with responding officers. This means wading through redacted documents, being rebuffed by witnesses and alleged victims, waiting for the processing of freedom-of-information requests. This means hitting walls, putting together a to-do list, then waiting for the case to be adjudicated, dismissed or closed.

Barry then cited Friel who said, “Then we’re going to circle back and go through the whole list again." 

Well, that certainly doesn’t align with what’s unfolding in the Josh Brown case.

Thursday, the league complained it hit a dead-end in its investigation into allegations of abuse by Brown. A portion of their statement:

“NFL investigators made repeated attempts — both orally and in writing — to obtain any and all evidence and relevant information in this case from the King County Sheriff’s Office. Each of those requests was denied and the Sheriff’s Office declined to provide any of the requested information, which ultimately limited our ability to fully investigate this matter. We concluded our own investigation, more than a year after the initial incident, based on the facts and evidence available to us at the time and after making exhaustive attempts to obtain information in a timely fashion. It is unfortunate that we did not have the benefit or knowledge of these materials at the time.”

Later Thursday, the NFL’s effort to get to the bottom of the Brown case – or at least get background – was lampooned by the man the league said turned them away.  King County Sheriff John Urquhart, whose office investigated accusations that Brown abused his ex-wife while a member of the Seahawks, said the investigator that contacted his office didn’t make it clear he was representing the NFL.

“Since this is a hot-button item in the NFL, since it’s the NFL, we probably would have told them orally a little bit more about what we had.” Urquhart said. “But we don’t have them calling us here. We’ve got some goofus from Woodinville named Rob Agnew asking for the case file. We have no idea who he is.”

“We would have told them… ‘Be careful, NFL, don’t rush into this. This case is blossoming way more than what happened on May 22nd of 2015. We’re getting more information, be careful,’” he said. “Again, we’re not gonna give them specifics but we certainly would have cautioned the NFL to be careful about what they were going to do.”

The league has since taken exception to Urquhart’s representation of the facts.

Do you know how the league could have avoided embarrassing itself yet again, though? By being transparent, as I first wrote back in August when Brown’s one-game suspension came down and an explanation as to why he didn’t get six games was sorely needed.

Uncomfortable as it may have been to state publicly what the investigation had concluded at that point, citing mitigating factors that led to Brown’s reduced suspension and detailing the efforts made to get to the bottom of the situation would have at least put everything on the table.

I wrote then: The NFL had two choices when it how to package Brown’s suspension. Either leave people to presume it was trying to bury an infraction and save face for the beloved owner or a precious New York city franchise. Or demonstrate that there really was a new way of doing business by being painfully transparent. 

It chose the former. And they now deal with the fallout of mistrust. Again. Still.

And today, it’s miles worse.