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View from Above: Patriots should learn a lesson from Spikes' latest strike

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File this one under Some People Just Never Learn.

How else can anyone explain Brandon Spikes' latest appearance in the headlines, and subsequent dismissal from the roster?  Casting aspersions of any actual innocence or guilt won't be done here, because all of the facts aren't yet available.  Of course, who knows when that will be, and it is likely charges of some kind will be filed in this case.  But however this story unfolds, the Patriots already have all of the information they need.

He's guilty.  But what exactly is he guilty of?  Poor Judgment? Poor Driving?  Poor Decision-Making? Here's what we know:

  • In the wee hours of this past Sunday morning, Massachusetts State Police found a car registered in his name abandoned on I-495 in Foxboro.
  • At approximately the same time as his vehicle reportedly hit a deer (3:30 am), three people in another car reported they were rear-ended by a car they never got a look at.
  • There were no dead deer in the area of the abandoned vehicle.

Seemingly obvious conclusions can be made from the relatively benign facts listed above.  And of course, until we get Spikes' side of the story and/or evidence that proves otherwise, the complete picture here won't be fully painted.  Maybe he has a good case or excuse, maybe he doesn't?  At the very least, Spikes appears guilty of being a poor decision-maker, if not a poor Patriot.  And when you consider his track record, dating back to his rookie season in New England, it becomes easier to see why his now-former new/old team has decided to bail on his abilities as a football player.

After his second-round selection by the Patriots in the 2010 NFL Draft, Spikes almost immediately opened his personal Pandora's Box; in December, he was suspended four games for violation of the league's substance abuse policy, reportedly for something not allowed within his personal medication for treatment of ADHD.  Injuries, which are a part of the game, caused him some difficulty over the next couple of seasons.  So did his outspoken activities within social media.  With the team preparing for the playoffs in 2014, he was placed on injured reserve after showing up late for practice.

Spikes' ability on the field wasn't worth the trouble caused off of it.  He wasn't re-signed in the off-season, and instead played last year in Buffalo.  He was looking for work when the Patriots called this spring.  His often inflammatory commentary via social media, which may or may not have anything to do with his actual behavior or actions, certainly must cause some hesitation from outside when someone judges character.  Even so, Spikes returned to the Patriots with a second chance in May after taking shots at his former employers while working elsewhere.  

No matter - this is a business, and any differences between the parties were apparently put aside for the common good, which is winning football games.  The Patriots had a need.  He was a Patriot again, he knew the system, and the system knew him.   

Which is exactly why he's now gone, again.  The system - the organization - knows it can't afford to keep Brandon Spikes employed, especially with the way the current climate has chilled itself around New England's recent controversial headlines.  

Spikes had professed in several media circles over the past few weeks to being a "changed" man since his first go-round in Foxboro five years ago.  With the team needing his football abilities on the field, many hoped he was right about that, and the team literally banked on it.

The problem, however, is that some people just never learn - the Patriot Way, or any other way.  It's good to see the Patriots finally have.

[wysifield-embeddedaudio|eid="332951"|type="embeddedaudio"|view_mode="full"]Gray's big day could finally pay big dividends

When looking back on an incredible run during a Super Bowl season, there's a single performance that really stands out among many good ones. 

Jonas Gray's 201-yard rushing day against the Indianapolis Colts in November was the perfect confluence of situations coming together at just the right time, against the right team at the right moment.  Gray was motivated as a former practice-squad player, the oft-maligned and criticized line was motivated, and the game plan was solid against an opponent that could not slow anyone down that day.  

As you may recall, only Gray could slow himself down after his Sports Illustrated cover-worthy performance.  Reportedly over-sleeping and showing up late for subsequent duty the following week put him in a doghouse that he was never completely able to vacate - he rushed for only 84 yards the rest of the season, and was not active for the Super Bowl game against Seattle.

This week, our PFW writers on Patriots.com featured a poll asking "Which running back will be the most important to the team's success in 2015?"  LeGarrette Blount has been a popular choice with more than half of the vote, but in this corner, a sufficiently-motivated and talented Gray gets the nod.

"It's tough, you know the expectations but I'm excited to come to work every day," Gray said as OTA's wrapped up last week.  "We (the running backs) all bring a unique ability to the offense...individually, (I'm) gonna just stay focused and come out here and compete."

He'll of course be competing with Blount and 2nd year player James White in particular, along with Brandon Bolden, Travaris Cadet and Tyler Gaffney.  With Blount expected to serve a suspension to start the season, and his resume-making moment against the Colts from last year on the table as evidence of his ability, opportunity is there with a capital "O."  "I've moved on from last year.  You just come out and compete, it's all you've been doing your whole life.  

"Each individual learns from his own experiences and you kind of take something away from it," Gray added.  "Every day I'm just coming in and trying to be a better professional and getting to know my teammates."

He already knows his coaches, I'll wager.  We'll soon find out if the lesson he endured was a lesson learned.  

Brown's blessing and Buffalo's big moment

Two items from elsewhere around the NFL over the past week struck a chord - one was surely a sour note played in Syracuse while the other could be sweet music not far away in Buffalo.

In response to a Syracuse decision to return the school's famed jersey #44 to active-status on the field, one of the greats to have worn the number seems to be less-than-thrilled with his alma mater.  Cleveland Browns' Hall-of-Fame running back Jim Brown, perhaps the greatest running back of all time, told NFL Network's Rich Eisen he never gave the school his blessing to un-retire the number.  "I just didn't complain," Brown said.  "I didn't talk to anyone before they decided to do it, so they couldn't have my blessings."

Oops.  Syracuse reportedly received permission from one other "44" to have worn the jersey for the Orange, Floyd Little.  The late Ernie Davis also played with the #44.  All three are enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame, with Brown and Little also enshrined in Canton, OH.  Jersey #44 hasn't been worn by any player at Syracuse since 1998, and was officially retired in 2005.

And before you jokingly dismiss the announcement of next season's Buffalo Bills-Jacksonville Jaguars game in London being made available worldwide on any device - TV, tablet, computer or phone - consider this:  It's the first time an NFL regular season game will be streamed live around the world, with no restrictions.

In partnership with Yahoo, the league is extending its digital presence across multiple platforms for the first time, for free.  The aim is to put the National Football League literally in the hands of millions across the globe who might not otherwise be able to view pro football in real-time, or have access to the game at any time.  That's a significant step for a league that continues to show its commitment to innovation and new ideas.

Who knows what's on the horizon?  A franchise based in Europe?  A game in the Land Down Under? Retina implants for our eyeballs?

Here's what can happen right away - if the Bills can live up to some of the hype and display some potential next season, perhaps a whole new world will open up to Buffalo.  New fans?  Marketing opportunities?  Maybe things won't be as rough in the Buff as they have been over the past 20 years...give or take a past sour note or two.

*John Rooke is an author and award-winning broadcaster, and is beginning his 23rd year as the Patriots' stadium voice.  Currently serving in several media capacities - which include hosting "Patriots Playbook" on Patriots.com Radio - Rooke has broadcast college football and basketball locally and nationally for 27 seasons and is a member of the Rhode Island Radio Hall of Fame.  *

Follow him on Twitter - @JRbroadcaster

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