|Rookie Brandon Spikes will return to the Patriots Jan. 3. (File/Robert E. Klein for The Globe)|
Spikes suspended four games
Patriots rookie linebacker violated NFL’s substance policy
The Patriots defense, riding high after its recent performances, was dealt a blow yesterday when the NFL suspended rookie linebacker Brandon Spikes four games for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.
Spikes’s suspension begins immediately. He will not appeal because he will return for the start of the playoffs, according to agent Terry Watson.
Spikes was absent from practice Wednesday and Thursday; on Wednesday, the team listed him on its practice report as missing the session for a “not injury related’’ issue.
“Brandon Spikes of the New England Patriots has been suspended without pay for four games for violating the NFL policy on performance enhancing substances,’’ the NFL wrote in a statement. “Spikes’s suspension begins immediately. He will be eligible to return to the Patriots’ active roster on Monday, January 3 following the team’s final regular season game on January 2 against the Miami Dolphins.
“Spikes is eligible to participate in all playoff games.’’
Spikes denied that his suspension was for a performance-enhancer.
“I’ve been contacted by the NFL and informed that I will be suspended four games for the detection of an illegal substance in a drug test,’’ Spikes said in a statement, which was released through the team. “The substance was a medication that I should have gotten clarification on before taking. It was not a performance enhancer or an illegal drug. The integrity of the game is very important to me. I understand the league’s ruling and apologize to my teammates, the fans and the Patriots organization for this mistake.’’
Spikes can return Jan. 3, the day after the Patriots final regular-season game, against the Dolphins. He cannot be at the team facility and must work out on his own during his suspension.
A first offense under the league’s PED policy triggers a four-game suspension. Spikes will also be fined the amount of four game checks, which is about $75,300 — his base salary this season is $320,000, which is meted out in 17 checks during the regular season.
Players are repeatedly told to check with team medical staff before taking medications; the list of banned substances under the performance-enhancer rule is lengthy.
The last Patriot to sit out under the PED policy was Rodney Harrison, who was suspended at the start of the 2007 season for admitting to the NFL he used human growth hormone.
For the duration of the suspension, Spikes is on the reserve/suspended list, meaning the Patriots can use his spot on the 53-man roster to add another player. The Patriots signed cornerback Chevis Jackson yesterday; the third-year, third-round pick from LSU fills that spot.
It has been a strange 14 months or so for Spikes, a North Carolina native whom the Patriots made the 62d pick in the 2010 draft.
While playing with Florida on Halloween 2009, Spikes appeared to gouge the eyes of Georgia running back Washaun Ealey; according to reports, the Gators were not going to discipline him, but Spikes said he should be punished for his actions.
He sat out the first half of the Gators’ next game, against Southeastern Conference doormat Vanderbilt.
He recorded a slow 40-yard dash time at the scouting combine, but his instincts and performance for Florida led the Patriots to use one of their three second-round picks on him. Spikes didn’t disappoint, quickly moving to the top of the depth chart at inside linebacker next to Jerod Mayo, and veteran players lauded his ability to know where plays were headed before they developed.
But during training camp, a racy video involving Spikes appeared online. The tape was recorded when Spikes was in college. He was not disciplined by the league or the team, and said he was embarrassed when he addressed the situation weeks later.
Spikes played in all 12 games this season, starting eight; he recorded 71 tackles, three pass break-ups, and had his first interception Monday night against the Jets.
Gary Guyton, who started all 16 games at inside linebacker last season and who has started the last three next to Mayo, will likely see more playing time. This could also lead to more opportunities for undrafted rookie Dane Fletcher.