Spikes: 'Defense showing signs of being great'

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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."

It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

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It's official: Patriots nab third-round compensatory pick in Collins trade

The Patriots received a conditional fourth-round pick in 2018 from the Browns in return for Jamie Collins. That's how the trade was described on the league's transaction wire. 

The "condition" of that fourth-rounder? Well, if the Browns received a third-round compensatory pick in 2017, the Patriots would nab that pick instead. 

On Friday, the NFL announced that the Browns had in fact been awarded a third-round compensatory pick, which meant that almost three full weeks after Super Bowl LI, everything was still coming up Patriots.

In actuality, the odds were pretty good all along that the Patriots would get what they got

Cleveland lost Pro Bowl center Alex Mack in free agency last offseason when he opted to sign with the Falcons. Because compensatory picks are based on free agents lost and free agents acquired, and because the Browns did not sign any similarly-impactful free agents, there was a good chance Mack's departure would render a third-round comp pick that would be shipped to New England.

Had Mack suffered a significant injury that forced his play to drop off or limited his time on the field, a third-rounder may have been out of the question, but he played well (named a Pro Bowler and a Second Team All-Pro) and stayed healthy -- lucky for the Patriots -- missing just 17 total snaps in the regular season. 

The Browns comp pick that will be sent to New England is No. 103 overall. The Patriots were also awarded a fifth-round comp pick, No. 185 overall. That was a result of the league weighing the departures of Akiem Hicks and Tavon Wilson against the arrival of Shea McClellin.

The Patriots now have nine selections in this year's draft: One first-rounder; one second-rounder; two third-rounders; one fourth-rounder*; two fifth-rounders; two seventh-rounders.

The third-round compensatory pick acquired by the Patriots carries additional value this year in that it is the first year in which compensatory picks can be traded. A near top-100 overall selection may allow the Patriots to move up the draft board or build assets in the middle rounds should they be inclined to deal. And we know they oftentimes are. 

* The Patriots forfeited their highest fourth-round selection in this year's draft as part of their Deflategate punishment. They acquired a fourth-round pick from the Seahawks last year. Because that would have been the higher of their two selections, that's the one they'll lose. They will make their own fourth-round pick at No. 137 overall.

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

Gronkowski says he has 'no doubt' he'll be ready for start of next season

When it comes to projecting Rob Gronkowski's health, it's been best to steer clear of absolutes. There have been too many injuries, too many surgeries, to predict exactly how he'll feel months in advance. 

Still, in speaking with ESPN's Cari Champion recently, he said he had "no doubt" he'll be ready for Week 1 of the 2017 regular season. 

"Yes, for sure," he replied when asked if he expected to be good to go. 

Gronkowski also fielded a question about his long-term future in the sit-down. Lately it's been his coach Bill Belichick and his quarterback Tom  Brady who receiver all the life-after-football queries, but Gronkowski, 27, was asked how much longer he'd like to play. 

"I’m not really sure," he said. "I mean, I still love playing the game, and as of right now, I want to play as long as I possibly could play. My mindset is to keep on going."

Gronkowski landed on season-ending injured reserve in December after undergoing a procedure on his back -- his third back surgery since 2009. He's had nine reported surgeries -- including procedures on his knee, forearm and ankle -- since his final year at the University of Arizona.