FOXBORO, Mass. — Just seven days into training camp, and three and a half months into Brandon Spikes' NFL career, Patriots head coach Bill Belichick threw some big-time compliments toward the rookie linebacker.
"He sees some things that I’m not sure everybody sees," Belichick said Wednesday. "He’s an instinctive player, and he sees things. I don’t know if they are exactly the textbook way you would read the plays, but he reads them. It’s interesting to kind of work him into our system."
Spikes has gotten a chance to run with the first-team defense since starter Gary Guyton succumbed to a left knee injury Sunday afternoon, and the former Gator has played like a beast. He's all over the ball, and he's strong and physical enough to get rough in piles.
"He’s got some unique skills," Belichick said. "For a tall player, he’s got probably more quickness than most guys, probably a little more leverage than a lot of other tall players. He does a lot of things well. It’s kind of not by the book, but [it’s] effective."
Belichick is clearly excited to see Spikes in game action because he's having such a good time coaching him. Even if Spikes — who fell into the late second round because of his slow 40 time, and he said people have been calling him slow since he was 4 or 5 years old — isn’t orthodox, he's certainly instinctual, and that’s opened Belichick's eyes. It's not the first time Spikes has heard that, either.
"I understand a lot of guys say, 'You got to the play,'" Spikes said. "'You're not that fast, but you seem like you see it before it happens,' so I think it's just God-given instincts. It just kind of happens. Whatever I see, I just go, and a lot of times, it's right."
Spikes has been a good rookie, immersing himself in the playbook in order to get a better understanding of the defense. Even though Spikes is young, Belichick expects his inside linebackers to take control of the defense in regard to reads and play calls.
That’s the kind of stuff that will take a little more time, but Spikes has gotten off to a quick start. Eventually, Guyton will return to the lineup and assume his starting role, but this string of practices have been invaluable at the outset of Spikes' career.
An unorthodox style be damned, Spikes looks like a guy who can get the job done, and that’s what has Belichick glowing. But when Spikes was asked to evaluate his own game, he couldn’t come up with anything too direct, either. Just a good, old-fashioned description that should intrigue Patriots fans.
"Whatever I see, I read it and I go," Spikes said. "I just try to play the game the old-school way."