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