After yesterday morning's practice, Takeo Spikes took some time to answer a bunch of questions from the press. Considering how much time and energy it took to get Spikes signed and in uniform, he had plenty to say. Further down are some of Mike Nolan's thoughts on the Spikes signing and the impact.
Previous experience as a Ted:
“The good thing about it, I played that position late in my career in Buffalo, but just defense, I played just defense my first four years in the league with Cincinnati, so that’s why I’m familiar with it.”
Impressions of Patrick Willis:
“He’s just—I’ve seen him do interviews on TV and everything, but he’s all that everybody says he is. I think he is a good young man and I think he is an outstanding player. Everything he’s proven over this past year, I mean it speaks for itself. We are going to get together and everything I know and some of the things I’ve learned over my years, I’m going to help him out and try to notate that transition over as far as him taking his game up into another level.”
Why the 49ers:
"...Even the first time I came out here to San Francisco, I was impressed...I was impressed with the coaching staff. It reminds me of the coaching staff that I had when I first got to Buffalo out of free agency out of Cincinnati and that really turned me on, and then having the chance to talk to the guys. Mark Roman, Nate Clements, Jonas [Jennings]. Those guys kind of stayed in my ear throughout time, all over the summer time. I still didn’t know, so I was just waiting and seeing what the best opportunity was and the big thing, it really wasn’t about money for me. I wanted to come somewhere where I thought I would have the best opportunity to win because I’ve been playing for eleven years now, so I’m trying to at least, at the minimum, get to the playoffs and then we are going to win it all in the Super Bowl. So, I felt like San Francisco was the best place for me.”
On his health:
“I’m fine. I’m good. I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t. That’s a good way to look at it, but I got passed the surgery to the fifteenth week of the season. I almost made it through, but I’m fine now...I was hoping to play the season out, but that Monday night when Minnesota won, that kind of put us out of the playoffs, so there was really no need for me to go ahead and continue to finish.”
How long it will take to learn the defense:
“It’s just a matter of time. The good thing about this defense is it’s not loaded with a lot of stuff. I came from Philly, to where it was serious. It was a lot of stuff, but the good thing is it’s basic. You are going to have a couple of calls, but it is more so terminology for me. The best part about it is I’ve been in the league now, going on eleven years, so it’s not really much I haven’t seen. It’s really not anything I haven’t seen. Now it’s just finding out what we used to call it and call it that here now.” (Spikes mentioned it was similar to the defense he played in under Dick LeBeau in Cincinnati)
Comparing the Ted to the Mike:
"He’s (Willis) actually coming into the same position that I was when I came into Cincinnati because I was in that same position. A lot of the calls are for that side of the defense, the weak side. He’s sitting right there on the weak side, but at the same time the TED has a lot of opportunities to make plays, too. They are out there to make. Do I just sit back and bide and at the end of the day, “There’s just this play he’s got to make and everything,” nah. If there is a play out there to make, I am going to go out there and make it. I tell him meet me at the ball. I tell all the guys, meet me at the ball, all the time.”
Why not wait until an injury opened up a need to sign him:
“To me, it is important for me to come in and understand what I’m doing and not only that. To understand who I’m playing with so they get to know me and I get to know them. That’s what is more important for me than anything and I kind of had this date circled on my calendar but as time goes on—nobody likes training camp, I don’t like training camp, but I’m here.”
Spikes seems to realize his role while still having the drive to be a play-maker. I definitely like that he wants to work with Patrick Willis to make him a better player. Up through 2004 Spikes was a big time playmaker before injuries slowed him down. He's shown the ability to be a tackling, while forcing some turnovers and getting some pressure on the QB.
While he seems to have some Ted-type experience, I'm curious to see how he does in what could be described as a somewhat secondary role to the star of the linebacking corp, Patrick Willis. Obviously Spikes will play an important role and he is saying all the right things right now.
Whether you think he's washed up or not, I think the 49ers have improved their linebacking depth, while also improving special teams coverage. If Ulbrich isn't starting, he'll see even more time in special teams. As the punt coverage showed on Friday, that can never be underestimated.
Mike Nolan's thoughts after the jump
On getting Spikes into the practice mix:
“He will work with the second group as he did today in practice. In the game, I believe Greg Manusky will probably limit his calls so that the second group doesn’t do a lot of the volume that we have on the defensive package standpoint. He’ll probably just keep it pretty simple so that he can play. That’s probably it. We’d like to get him in. We don’t want to wear him out either because he hasn’t been in training camp – he’s been working out.”
Whether Ulbrich could hold up as the full-time linebacker for 16 games:
“We do need depth and special teams for us is an advantage. A year ago I’d like to have seen us win a game because of it. Although we were very good, I don’t think we ever pulled that off. Jeff is an outstanding special teams player, too, so we’ll have to see how this works. The more depth you have at linebacker typically makes for a better special teams group, and hopefully this creates a little bit of depth for us so these guys don’t get exhausted just playing base."
Is the Ted linebacker the dirty-work position:
“No, it’s not. It’s a more physical position than where Patrick plays, meaning that you have to take on some bigger guards. But I wouldn’t call it necessarily ‘dirty work.’ It’s a more physical position. And some guys like that. They’d say, ‘That’s the best work for me.’ Because if you make them run around too much, and it’s not a strength, they’d say, ‘That’s a dirty job.’”
On providing Willis a veteran presence:
“Derek Smith was experienced last year, too. I think that every player plays better the better the guy is next to him. If that player is just a freelance player next to him and makes a lot of plays, I don’t know that it would be good for Patrick because he’s a more disciplined guy. But he makes a lot of plays. You need to have discipline for everyone. I think that anytime you have a good player next to you it helps you because if he takes those blockers, you get to run with the ball more freely.”