Early in the fourth quarter of the Buffalo Bills' 37-31 loss to the New England Patriots on Sunday, the Bills were awarded 15 yards and a first down after linebacker Brandon Spikes was flagged for an illegal helmet-to-helmet hit on quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick did not react kindly to the blow to the head, and after the game was questioned about said reaction.
"Spikes is an emotional player," Fitzpatrick told reporters. "I think he’s a punk at times, and took a cheap shot at Scott in the first game and was doing a lot of jabbering and talking and hitting out there. Not one of my favorite players. Not high on my list."
The "cheap shot at Scott" that Fitzpatrick referred to was a blow to the head on tight end Scott Chandler in Week 4. On that play, Chandler was chasing down a Devin McCourty interception from behind when Spikes' shoulder mysteriously, yet viciously, found its way into the 6'7" Chandler's chin. Spikes was fined $21,000 for that hit despite the fact that no penalty was called; before that fine was levied, Spikes told reporters the following: "I don't think I've done anything illegal."
Following the Fitzpatrick dust-up on Sunday, Spikes forced a late-game fumble that might have brought the game to an earlier conclusion had Buffalo's Eric Wood not recovered the football. The hit, delivered to running back Fred Jackson, left the veteran tailback concussed.
This play was not flagged, and offers the most gray area by far of the three hits outlined in this article regarding the legality of the blow. Regardless of your opinion on whether or not the hit on Jackson crossed the line, Spikes did nothing to dispel the notion that he's a punk as Jackson was helped off of the field of play by trainers, flexing his muscles and pointedly staring in Jackson's direction as he moved toward the sidelines.
Bills reserve running back Tashard Choice took issue with Spikes' on-field behavior not just as Jackson was helped off, but while possession over the fumble was being disputed and Jackson lay motionless on the ground.
"That really got me stirred up," Choice said Monday. "He’ll get his, though. When players go down from concussions, they’re serious. He wasn’t moving. It’s cool to make a big hit, but it’s not cool when somebody is down like that. He’s a good player, but you don’t do that."
Choice is right on both counts: Spikes is a good player. He makes game-changing plays, and brings an edge to a Patriots defense that needs all the help it can get. He'll also likely be fined again - if not just for the hit on Fitzpatrick, then for both of the hits mentioned above. Spikes will pay the fine and life will move on. None of that will change the fact that Spikes is, indeed, a punk. In fact, that's one of a large number of fitting nouns to describe Brandon Spikes.
My concern here is that a fine won't be enough punishment. Fines are an acceptable consequence when a player makes an illegal hit without ill intent in mind. Knowing what we know about Spikes, and the pride he takes in being a knockout artist, I'm not sure a fine will change his on-field behavior - and that could lead to more injuries like Jackson's down the road. Spikes should serve a one-game suspension for his collective actions. He doesn't respect the game or the health of its players enough to simply be docked a few paychecks at this point.