FOXBORO — While there was a big crowd gathered to talk to one former Gator following Tuesday’s minicamp session, another one who will have a far greater impact on the fortunes of the 2013 Patriots drew a far smaller group.
Linebacker Brandon Spikes — making his first appearance on the practice fields behind Gillette this offseason — was limited as he took part in Tuesday’s minicamp session. The occasionally combustible linebacker, who steered clear of the OTAs earlier this spring, appeared to be limited in what he was able to do, but jumped in as part of the 11-on-11 drills at the end of the workout.
He certainly didn’t appear to be at full strength, but when it came to explaining his absence from the spring sessions — sessions that we voluntary — he didn’t hold back.
“I just feel like I was trying to put myself in the best position to compete for a spot on the team, and also help this team win a championship,” the 25-year-old explained. “You guys know me – I do things a little different from everybody else. I don’t think that’s bad or a shocker.
“Honestly, if everybody in this world was a [conformist], it would be one boring place.”
There was a school of though that said Spikes, who is heading into the final year of his contract, was trying to force the issue when it came to getting a new deal. While his absence certainly drew the attention of coach Bill Belichick — who took a minor shot at the linebacker, saying, “All of our players except one have been here regularly through the offseason up until this week” — Spikes smiled when he was asked if his absence was related to a desire for a new contract.
“Now you know I can’t speak on that,” he said with a laugh. “Why would you ask me that? No comment, guys. No comment.”
While he was away (he was working out at Bommarito’s in Florida, a favorite spot of former Patriots receiver Wes Welker), he made sure to stay in touch with his teammates who were at the facility.
“I stayed in contact with some guys, making sure things weren’t changing in the meeting rooms and things like that,” he said. “I just wanted to stay on top of my game and I felt like being somewhere else, being on my own I normally do better and be productive that way.
“The guys embraced me as soon as I walked in the door. It’s cool,” he added. ““Of course. It’s good to see all the teammates, new guys, younger guys – it feels good to run around a little bit.”
A 6-foot-2, 255-pounder who has built a rep as one of the premiere run stoppers in the league, Spikes has made it a point to try and become a three-down linebacker. (He finished with a career-best seven passes defensed last year.) While it remains to be seen if he can be a linebacker who can contribute in pass coverage — an area where the New England linebacking corps struggled last season — he knows he’s entering a pivotal year. If he can prove that he’s evolved into a linebacker who can stay on the field on passing downs, he could be in line for a sizable payday.
He’s certainly started on the right foot — he said Tuesday that he’s feeling as good now as when he was a rookie.
“I feel awesome,” he said. “I feel great. Ready to go.”