Spikes welcomes the spotlight

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PHILADELPHIA - Takeo Spikes has spent plenty of Monday nights sitting on a couch in front of a television watching football.

Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Takeo Spikes loosened up during minicamp earlier this year. The Washington County graduate, acquired from the Buffalo Bills in March, played on Monday night for the first time in his career against the Redskins.  AP / File
AP / File
Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Takeo Spikes loosened up during minicamp earlier this year. The Washington County graduate, acquired from the Buffalo Bills in March, played on Monday night for the first time in his career against the Redskins.

The two-time Pro Bowl linebacker left the popcorn at home this week. He played under the glare of the Monday night lights for the first time in his 10-year career when the Philadelphia Eagles played host to the Washington Redskins.

"I've seen a lot of Monday night games," Spikes said. "I want it to be the best game ever. There's going to be a lot of excitement. I'm eager, very eager to go out and put on a great show. Everybody is watching. I mean, everybody. You don't even have to have cable to watch this."

Spikes spent his first five seasons in the NFL with Cincinnati and the next four in Buffalo, establishing a reputation for being one of the top playmakers at his position. The Bengals were the "Bungles" back then, and the Bills only had a winning record once when Spikes was there. So, neither team got an opportunity to play before a prime-time, national TV audience.

A graduate of Washington County High and a first-round pick by Cincinnati in 1998, Spikes had at least 100 tackles in each of his five seasons with the Bengals. But it wasn't until he went to Buffalo in 2003 that he got widespread recognition. Spikes had 144 tackles in '03 and 111 tackles with five interceptions in '04, making the Pro Bowl both years.

"As an individual player, you have goals, you have things that you want to achieve and accomplish at the end of the year," Spikes said. "But, it's hard for you to get the defensive player of the year, it's hard for you to get the defensive player of the week, when you're not exposed to everybody, where everybody can see you play. Not only just your colleagues, but I mean everybody. The thing that makes it so special is that you're the only show on that night at that time period, and everybody loves to watch Monday Night Football."

Spikes has never been to the playoffs, either. He's thrilled to finally be part of a team with legitimate postseason hopes. First, he wants to help the Eagles get their first win.

"Monday night, that's something that I've always wanted ever since the day I stepped into the league," Spikes said. "But, with the talent that we have around, and the stability in the coaching staff, it makes it that much more exciting."

Acquired from the Bills in a trade in March, the 30-year-old Spikes was the most significant off-season addition for the Eagles. A soft defense cost Philadelphia a chance to play in the NFC championship game last year. Defensive coordinator Jim Johnson's once-formidable crew struggled early in the season, improved down the stretch and fell apart in a 27-24 loss to the New Orleans Saints in a second-round playoff game.

The revamped defense featuring three new starting linebackers wasn't the problem in a 16-13 loss at Green Bay in the opener. Spikes had nine tackles, knocked down one pass and Philadelphia limited Brett Favre and company to 215 total yards and a pair of field goals.

"We got off to a good start," Spikes said. "We did a lot of things well. We accomplished all of our team goals as far as defensively. There are not too many times that you accomplish each and every last one of them."

The Eagles are counting heavily on Spikes to be the player he was before tearing his right Achilles' tendon in Week 3 of the 2005 season. Spikes missed four games last year with a strained hamstring and was slowed by the Achilles' injury the whole season.

He was excited to join Philadelphia and have a chance to play with Jeremiah Trotter. But the Eagles released the four-time Pro Bowl middle linebacker after the second preseason game, handing second-year pro Omar Gaither the starting job.

"Learning about Trott's release was tough," Spikes said. "The bond that we developed over that short period of time, I always knew he was a great player, but, during that time I learned he was a great man, also. He was a guy that everybody respected."

Like Trotter, Spikes is popular among fans and his teammates. The man known as "TKO" is a fierce competitor on the field and a soft-spoken leader away from it.

Now, the rest of the league finally gets to see him in the spotlight.


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