Spikes: 'Defense showing signs of being great'


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."

Trumps calls on NFL to suspend Marshawn Lynch for season


Trumps calls on NFL to suspend Marshawn Lynch for season

WASHINGTON -- President Donald Trump says the NFL should suspend Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch.

Lynch sat during most of the U.S. anthem and stood for the Mexican anthem before Sunday's game against the Patriots at Azteca Stadium in Mexico City.

Lynch hasn't stood for the national anthem since returning from retirement this season.

Trump tweeted early Monday: "Great disrespect! Next time NFL should suspend him for remainder of season. Attendance and ratings way down."

Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the movement last season when he refused to stand during the anthem to protest racial inequality and police brutality.

Patriots hit heights in altitude of Mexico City against Raiders

Patriots hit heights in altitude of Mexico City against Raiders

In a conference call last week, Raiders coach Jack Del Rio wondered if Sunday's game in Mexico City with the Patriots might show how two contrasting approaches to handling the altitude could impact the outcome. 

Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady made sure of it. 

The Patriots utilized a hurry-up attack during their first drive -- a 16-play sequence -- that tested Oakland's conditioning early. Who would handle it better? The team that spent the week training at altitude in Colorado Springs? Or the team that wanted to beat the effects of the altitude by training at sea level and traveling to Mexico City the day before the game?


Judging by how Raiders rookie defensive back Obi Melifonwu asked to come out of the game, and seeing linebacker Nicholas Morrow doubled over on the sidelines during the series, the Patriots initially looked like the more well-conditioned club. 

Stephon Gilmore and Danny Amendola had to leave the game briefly because they were dehydrated, but the final score, 33-8, suggested that the Patriots were better prepared.

Brady certainly had no issues playing at Estadio Azteca. He finished the game having gone 30-for-37 for 339 yards and three touchdowns. He had a quarterback rating of 131.9. 

At various points, Brady's name was chanted at the stadium, which he said caught him by surprise. He recently watched the television copy of last year's Texans-Raiders game just to get a sense for what the crowd would be like, and he remembered hearing Raiders fans dominating the crowd.

"That was very much a surprise," Brady said of the cheers. "Especially since seeing some of last year's game; they were very pro-Raider. But it seemed like we had a lot of Patriots fans here too, so that was great to see."

Rob Gronkowski said that the interaction with the fans in Mexico -- which included walking from the locker room through the stands to the sidelines -- was one of the things that made the trip a memorable one. 

"We really didn't get to do that much, explore around or anything, but we got to interact with the fans and everything coming out of the tunnel," he said. "That was a cool experience, seeing all the fans go wild and everything, giving them high-fives, so that was super neat.

"I wasn't sure what to expect, never played down here. It was a great experience, though. The way the fans were interacting was actually unbelievable. They were super loud. They sounded proud, and it was just a great experience overall coming here. Having that type of experience definitely makes it worthwhile and awesome."

Stephen Gostkowski, who turned in one of the plays of the day with a 62-yard field goal at the end of the first half, was similarly grateful to play in such a unique environment. 

"It was just an unbelievable atmosphere," Gostkowski said. "The stadium was great. The fans were unreal. Just a fun experience. To have a hand in a win, see the excitement from all the guys, it was really cool."

"That was pretty cool," Brady added. "I've been around a long time so if you're a fan of the NFL, you've probably seen me at some point, but it's still an incredible experience to come here and play football and see the reception and hopefully there's more games here, and the game continues to grow, and other people get to see it in person and experience it because it's a game that I love and so do a lot of other people around the world."