Thursday, March 13, 2003
Playoffs Spikes' top priority in Buffalo
By John Wawrow
The Associated Press
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. - Changing his mind-set was among the first things linebacker Takeo Spikes did in becoming a member of the Buffalo Bills. After spending five losing seasons in Cincinnati, Spikes believes he can now realistically discuss his chances of making the playoffs. Maybe going even further.
"I know I said last week that I want to just smell the playoffs," Spikes said Wednesday in his first public appearance as a Bill. "Let me correct that. I do want to smell the playoffs. But I want to bite the Super Bowl."
Spikes joined the Bills after the Bengals declined their right to match Buffalo's six-year, $32 million offer. Now Spikes, who didn't want to return to Cincinnati, can't wait to put the past behind him.
"I really don't want to talk about Cincinnati too much because this is a new day. I'm part of the Bills now," Spikes said. "Been born again. ... A lot of people are always saying, 'Now. Now you're going to experience the NFL.' And right now, just meeting with all the staff and everything, it seems that way."
Spikes' agent Todd France has sensed a change in his client.
"No doubt he's going through a mind-set change. He's excited," France said. "Any player thinking he has a chance of winning every game after five years of thinking or hoping about winning, it's going to be a whole new world for him."
Spikes' addition is considered a key component in the Bills' plan to bolster a defense that struggled last season. A dominating, hard-hitting player, who led the Bengals in tackles four times, Spikes is expected to solidify the weak side of the Bills linebacking core.
He will be teamed up with returning middle linebacker London Fletcher, who led the Bills in tackles last season, and newly signed free agent Jeff Posey, expected to play the strong side.
The Bills also upgraded their defensive coaching staff by appointing Dick LeBeau, Spikes' former head coach in Cincinnati, as an assistant head coach this past week.
The moves have won the approval of offensive tackle Jonas Jennings, a good friend of Spikes, who attended his new teammate's press conference.
"We're very excited," Jennings said, referring to the Bills Drew Bledsoe-led offense. "You never look to point the finger or anything like that, but it wasn't a secret that we needed to improve our defense some. It's a definitely big improvement with Takeo coming in."
Jennings said he urged Spikes to come to Buffalo.
"I told him, 'Hey, you could be the missing link whether you want that type of pressure on your shoulders or not,"' Jennings said.
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