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.




TODAY'S BASKETBALL GAMES
Scores and game wrap-ups

UC BASKETBALL
Bearcats blindsided by Southern Miss
DAUGHERTY: Committee holds UC's fate
Like Mardi Gras for Southern Miss
Other Conference USA games
C-USA Tournament Glance
Marquette's Wade C-USA player of year

XAVIER BASKETBALL
XU right at home in UD Arena
West again A-10 player of year
Dayton finally gets to play

MORE COLLEGE BASKETBALL
For Miami, first things first
Does UK need to lose?
UK sweeps SEC coaches' honors
Big East: St. John's trips Notre Dame
Wagner wins Northeast berth
Weber St. to represent Big Sky
Georgia players sue school

BENGALS-NFL
Bengals clearing path for Palmer
TE Kelly first addition to Bengals' offense
Playoffs Spikes' top priority in Buffalo
Blake steps into Arizona QB job
Luchey ready to start winning
NFL minorities organize
Raiders sign ex-49er Stubblefield
Officiating mistakes lead to dismissals

REDS-BASEBALL
Manzanillo could land in bullpen
Reds Notebook: Wilson's debut delayed
Yankees 10, Reds 5
Schott hospitalized again
Piazza charges mound after plunking
Other spring training games
Spring Training Standings
Bonds' ball dispute settled
Baseball Notebook: Ex-Red may have cancer

GOLF
Arnie and Jack stage final go-round

TENNIS
Roddick rides serve to second-round win

HIGH SCHOOLS
Today's basketball schedule
NCH girls carry city banner to state
6-8 Clemons leads Reading to final
Madeira's surprise run ends
Middletown dumps boys basketball coach
Ky. Games: Holy Cross, Boone, Brossart advance

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