Patriots second-year middle linebacker Brandon Spikes is coming off what may have been his best performance in New England in the team's pre-bye win over the Cowboys. The former second-round pick had eight tackles in the game, a quarterback hit and a handful of key plays in the Dallas backfield.
After a tumultuous first year that's included off-field issues, injuries and inconsistency it looks like the former Florida star and two-time All-American is settling into professional life in the middle of Bill Belichick's defense.
In a recent wide-ranging, exclusive interview for the upcoming issue of Patriots Football Weekly, Spikes emphasized the importance of his improving comfort level and playing with the guys around him. That includes learning to play behind a rotation of defensive linemen and next to his fellow linebackers.
"Different players do different things. They have different strengths and weaknesses. So you just have to get used the guys," Spikes said of guys rotating in front of him like Vince Wilfork, Albert Haynesworth and Kyle Love.
The good thing is that playing behind those types of big bodies allows Spikes to be aggressive and makes plays moving toward the line of scrimmage, including on some pass rush opportunities. He enjoys playing the game more moving forward than laterally or dropping into coverage.
"I feel like if I get a running start or get up some steam, I try to be disruptive," Spikes said with a smile. "But whatever I'm asked to do, if that's what I'm asked to do, I try to do it to the best of my ability."
One interesting phrase that came up while talking to Spikes about the various challenges he's faced early in his career is his favorite quote. Interestingly, that quote is an extension of one that Belichick has made famous in the coach's New England.
"It is what it is, but it ain't what you think," Spikes said, returning to a phrase he previously used as a rookie to answer questions about the slow 40 time that hurt his draft stock.
He went on to explain his addition to Belichick's famous, "It is what it is."
"I just add that on because it's like that," Spikes said. "Stuff don't really seem what it really is.'
There's no place that may be truer than via social media on Twitter. Spikes is an active tweeter from his @bspikes55 account. But as interesting as he is to follow on Twitter, he's also somewhat tough to follow. Media and fans alike often misconstrue his sometimes bizarre tweets as allusions to something dealing with his team, his career or his state of mind.
For example he lists his location on the site as , "Hell On Earth," despite the fact that he seems quite happy and content in Foxborough.
"I know a lot of people… you can say whatever on there, man," Spikes explained. "I might say I'm in London or somewhere. And people believe it and I'm like, 'Wow!' So it's just crazy. It's kind of fun to just interact with the fans. That's my whole thing. I'm just interacting with the fans and they love it. It's pretty cool to me."
Spikes also enjoys ending each of his tweets with a hash tag (#) with a variation of the word "Pow" Lately it's been "#POWwWwW."
Interestingly, the meaning of the POWwWwW was the only topic Spikes had no interest talking about.
"I'm going to hold off on that," Spikes said with a laugh.
What he didn't hold back on was his belief that former Florida teammate and current Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow will succeed in the NFL. Tebow may have as many critics as he does fans at this point as polarizing sports figure, but Spikes' confidence in the man who helped him win a national title with the Gators is unwavering.
"Me personally I just know his work ethic and his drive as an individual man, as a person. The sky's the limit for that guy," Spikes raved of Tebow. "Like I always say, hard work beats talent if talent doesn't work. So I know he's going to come out every day. We took the same approach at Florida, each and every day. We had a lot of success and that's from being humble and just driving to be the best. The sky's the limit for that guy. I think he's going to be a great player. He just has to keep working."
For more from Spikes and how he's settling in with the New England defense, look for the next issue of Patriots Football Weekly that hits newsstands this coming Tuesday.