Rookie linebacker Brandon Spikes has missed the previous two days of practice, and now we know why. Spikes has been suspended without pay by the NFL for violating the league’s performance-enhancing substances policy. Spikes is eligible to return for the playoffs should (when) the Patriots get there. According to Spikes, he did not take any performance-enhancing drugs but there was a substance in a medication he was taking that is on the NFL’s banned substances list. Here is Spikes’ statement:
“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. 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.”
What impact will Spikes’ absence have on the Patriots?
Brandon Spikes has been a consistent player on first and second down for the Patriots and has been pretty solid against the run. His deficiencies have come when he was asked to drop into pass coverage. He is currently second on the team in tackles with 61 and had his first NFL interception Monday night against the Jets. The Patriots will now likely have to turn to Gary Guyton to play more on early downs. Guyton has played primarily on 3rd-and-long situations and in sub packages as a coverage linebacker. Guyton started last season but is not as stout against the run as Spikes, so the run defense may suffer some. With the Bears looking at pounding the ball more with Matt Forte, this suspension could have an immediate negative impact this Sunday in Chicago. We’ll have to wait and see if Bill Belichick adds any new wrinkles to account for Spikes being out of the lineup.