Spikes: 'I felt (S.F.) was best place for me'

Fresh off his first practice with his new team, two-time All-Pro Takeo Spikes covered a variety of topics late Monday morning during his first interview as a 49er. Where does he fit in and what does he bring to the San Francisco defense? Why is he here and what are his expectations playing at LB next to All-Pro Patrick Willis? Spikes addresses those issues and more in this wide-ranging interview.

Q: How's it going now that you're a 49er?
Spikes:
It's going. It's coming. First day. It was decent, I have to take some of the rust off, so everything came along pretty well for the first day though. There's a lot of catching up that I have to do obviously, but other than that, putting the time in, getting acclimated with some of the guys. The good thing about it is that I played with several other guys on this team, so it makes the transition easy.

Q: The position you are playing, is it at all similar to what you have played in the past?
Spikes:
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.

Q: Were you more the MIKE?
Spikes:
Yeah, I was the MIKE, where Patrick (Willis) is playing at now.

Q: You just met Patrick Willis. Any quick impression on him as a player?
Spikes:
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.

Q: What swayed you to coming here at this time?
Spikes:
I never knew it was going to happen. Even the first time I came out here to San Francisco, I was impressed. I really didn't – 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.

Q: Reading some reports out of Detroit that they didn't want you to leave there without a contract last month. What happened there and how close were you to going to Detroit?
Spikes:
I liked Detroit. I really like Rod Marinelli and what he preaches, and Joe Barry, defensive coordinator. I'm very good friends with Derrick Brooks and I had the opportunity to talk with him, really just talking and seeing what type of guys they were. It was close, but at the end of the day I think I just had to come where I was going to be happy. Where my heart was at, so that's why I chose San Francisco.

Q: How are you physically?
Spikes:
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.

Q: Was it something that was going on during the season?
Spikes:
No, it happened at that game and actually, 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.

Q: How did practice look out there for you today? It looked kind of rough out there, especially early on.
Spikes:
Yeah it was rough. It was long, but I'm still learning. I really can't sit back and evaluate what this person is doing or what the offense is doing. The only thing I'm really focusing on now, is am I doing what needs to be done? So, just knocking the dust off.

Q: How long do you think it will take before you get everything down?
Spikes:
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.

Q: What is your perception of the two linebacker positions here? Is it that the MIKE is the marquee position and the TED is sort of the next one down? Do you see it that way that Willis is highlighted and your kind of…?
Spikes:
Yeah, I think at the end of the day, I haven't had a chance to tell him yet, but I really don't know how good he has it, but he deserves that. He's 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.

Q: What did Mike Singletary tell you when you got here?
Spikes:
We've talked several times. It's not just one thing with Mike. It's ongoing, but we had good talks and he just told me a little about himself. How detailed that he is, what he expects. I talked to him about how I liked to be coached and it's starting off good.

Q: How do you like to be coached?
Spikes:
Just tell me what to do and let me play.

Q: You said you wanted to come to some place where you could win and compete. You see the defense making so many interceptions and big plays today, does that make you kind of say this is the place?
Spikes:
It makes me feel real good because first of all you've got guys on the back – I've been on teams to where you have guys on the back end, where they don't compete at all. They act like, ‘Well, we'll turn it on in the game.' It doesn't work like that. You can't turn playmaking ability on like a light switch. You can't turn it on and off, and so to see guys like that, getting hands on balls, intercepting, knocking it down. That's big to me. I like that.

Q: What about Dontarrious (Thomas) giving you his number? Was that an easy swap?
Spikes:
No, it was tough. I had to ride him all through the night last night. Even this morning. So we got it done, so I have to do something real special for him. I hope it doesn't cost as much though.

Q: What is that something real special?
Spikes:
I don't know yet. I've got to get creative. He told me get creative.

Q: What is special about this number?
Spikes:
It's always the speed limit when I'm on the field the way that I look at it. I got it when I first came in and I've been attached to it ever since then.

Q: There was a perception that you were going to wait until training camp and see if a team needed you. A contender had an injury and you might be wanted. Why do this now? Why not give it another week or so to see what might happen around the league?
Spikes:
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.


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