Takeo Spikes proud of his cousin Brandon

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Takeo Spikes proud of his cousin Brandon

By A. Sherrod Blakely
CSNNE.com Celtics Insider
Follow @sherrodbcsn
FOXBORO The conversations don't last long, and aren't that frequent.

But there's no mistaking San Diego Chargers linebacker Takeo Spikes is proud of his cousin, New England Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes.

"He's a good football player," Takeo Spikes said. "He's a good football player for their system, and what they have."

The numbers certainly bear this out.

As a rookie last season, Brandon racked up 61 tackles in 12 games with eight starts after an illustrious career at Florida in which he was a two-time All-American and was part of two (2007 and 2009) national championship teams. However, a horrible 40-yard dash time - he clocked in at 5.06 seconds - saw his stock plummet into the second round of the draft.

While he was slowed by injuries during the preseason, Brandon is gradually working his way back into resuming his spot as a starting inside linebacker - the same position his cousin Takeo plays - in New England's 3-4 defense. In Sunday's 35-21 win over San Diego, Brandon had two tackles while his cousin Takeo racked up seven.

Takeo, who grew up in Georgia, said he didn't learn that they were cousins until a few years ago.

"I always knew I had family in that area (North Carolina), but I never knew (who)," said Takeo, 34. "I just did a little research and found out."

What he discovered was a young, hard-hitting linebacker whose aspirations - to play in the NFL - were no different than his when he was that age.

Leading up to the 2010 NFL draft, Takeo was hoping his team at the time, San Francisco, would use one of their early draft picks - the 49ers had three in the first two rounds that year - to select his cousin.

Instead, San Francisco used its first-round picks on a pair of offensive linemen, and used its second-round pick, 49th overall, to draft Southern Cal free safety Taylor Mays.

Thirteen picks later, Brandon Spikes was a Patriot.

Takeo sees a tremendous amount of talent, growth and potential in Brandon, an assessment he says he would have come to regardless of them having the same bloodline.

"He has a natural knack for the ball," Takeo said. "A lot of people not blessed with (his) instincts. He plays aggressive. Good athlete. Those intangibles alone his pedigree, where he came from. He won a lot of football games at Florida. Not only was he part of it; he was an integral part of it. He was one of the leaders."

A. Sherrod Blakely can be reached at sblakely@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Sherrod on Twitter at http:twitter.comsherrodbcsn

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.