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Fred Smerlas gives fair warning on Brandon Spikes, questions character and commitment

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If you value Fred Smerlas' opinion, then you shouldn't get too excited about the idea of Brandon Spikes playing for the Buffalo Bills.

Smerlas called me this afternoon to talk about something else, but while I had him on the line I asked for his thoughts about Spikes, the former New England Patriots linebacker visiting One Bills Drive today.

Smerlas is on the Bills Wall of Fame, but he knows Spikes and the Patriots. He's from Massachusetts, played two seasons with the Patriots, lives in the Boston area and is a regular analyst on Boston sports radio.

"I am a Buffalo Bill," Smerlas said. "I love the Buffalo Bills. People say, 'You're a Patriot.' I'm good friends with the Krafts, good friends with Tom Brady, good friends with Bill Belichick.

"But I bleed Buffalo Bills."

Smerlas would rather not see Spikes on the Bills' roster.

Smerlas laughed at the fact Spikes left last year's season opener against the Bills because he was dehydrated, and although Spikes played last year on a bum knee, the fifth-year pro went on injured reserve in the postseason for disciplinary reasons.

"How he got dehydrated in the first game, I don't know," Smerlas said. "He needs to focus more on football.

"The Patriots are very structured. Belichick puts up with no crap. Brady puts up with no crap. They're good leaders. He got put on IR because he missed a meeting and got a little out of line.

"When you have a young team like the Bills, I don't know that I'd want him. I want good guys. I want guys that believe in the Buffalo Bills, and it's very important for them that football and winning is important."

Smerlas is one of the fiercest players in Bills history. He started at defensive tackle every game he played for the Bills from 1980 through 1989.

He speaks as bluntly as he played.

"He's been out of shape," Smerlas said of Spikes. "If he talks about it being a good change, 'Dude, you're an average player.' He's a two-down player."

The Bills, however, are desperate for help versus the run. That's Spikes' strength.

"He's a stud against the run, inconsistent, not in great shape," Smerlas said. "He's limited against the pass.

"I'm not sure I would take a chance on a guy the Patriots thought wasn't a good enough guy in the locker room. I build on character."

Spikes is close with new Bills defensive line coach Pepper Johnson, a longtime Patriots assistant who coached linebackers the past two years. Johnson certainly would know what the Bills were getting with Spikes.

Smerlas stressed Bills coach Doug Marrone should keep Spikes on a short leash.

"If he's going to get this team under control, get players and personnel that are going to back you up," Smerlas said. "So Spikes wouldn't be a player I'd bring in.

"But you know what? If you bring him in for the minimum and not guarantee any money, and if he doesn't perform -- bang! -- your stuff's out the door before the season even starts."

  • John “Skip” Bayless II

    Maybe Smerlas is right. But I think Fred's got his own character issues. He's like an old-school Richie Incognito. 90% bluster, constantly macho-ing himself up. To cover something (insecurity?)

    • Dave Todaro

      Having followed the Bills very closely all the years Smerlas played for them including a couple of very horrible seasons, I'm gonna disagree, Skip. Smerlas was a character, but he sold himself out to his teammates Sunday after Sunday. From the day he reported to camp to the last play of the season, he was about winning. And yes he got very frustrated at some of the boneheads who ran the show for the horrible stretch of 84-86 seasons but if you were paying attention its because the man was all about winning.

    • Mick Palmesano

      I am a life-time Bills fan living in Boston. It's funny Smerlas says he's still a Buffalo Bill as he truly is 'all about the Patriots' anytime he opens his mouth in this area. A one-year contract w Spikes is a minimal risk move by OBD - see if he helps the Bills improve the D. And; I bet he gets the attention of Tom Brady (early) when the Bills/Pats meet...

  • WhySoSerious?

    I think the Bills value Pepper Johnson's opinion over Smerlas.

    • Lloyd M. Jr.

      Not to be crass, but...
      Pepper Johnson... 2 Super Bowl rings as a player(as defensive coach, OTOH... someone help me, please).
      Fred Smerlas... no rings.
      I respect Smerlas, but Pepper Johnson has the wins, and the insight, to bolster his cred.

  • jp bills

    I am sure its about new englanders hateville for anyone who leaves .How does he feel about Talib? I am sure they hate him know too.

  • Hal Jam

    From what I've seen Spikes is a pretty good player, but I could think of reasons why we might not want him. For example, any buddies of Aaron Hernandez I think I'd stay away from.

  • Roy Stevenson

    At least Spikes doesnt jump offsides two or three times a game with the ball sitting about 6" in front of him like Smerlas did.

  • Dave Todaro

    I'm scared for next season. Not saying panicked, but scared. At the end of the day, character guys win championships and this is a sign the Bills aren't going in that direction. We're rolling the dice with this one, and also in a 4-3 you need 3rd down backers who can cover. I don't see our already-poor 3rd down defense getting any better.

    • John “Skip” Bayless II

      Yeah. Seattle won big with a bunch of character guys??

  • vicmantak

    This kind of comments are reaction. Not proactivity. As Smerlas said, he is a kind of Bills-Patriots hybrid fan. He is just warning us his lack of commitment. Something that could be controlled with respect.

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Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.