- Mike Reiss, ESPN New England Patriots reporter
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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Linebacker Brandon Spikes stole the show after the first practice of New England Patriots rookie minicamp Friday, explaining his slow time in the 40-yard dash with a trademark Bill Belichick-like response that included a twist.
Asked about the 4.95 time that contributed to him dropping to the bottom of the second round, Spikes said: "I have been watching this game for a while [and] I have yet to see a player run in a straight line 40 yards in a game. So I've got a little saying: 'It is what it is, but it ain't what you think.'"
The Patriots and Belichick obviously agree.
"Testing is certainly one way to evaluate a player, but football is a game of 22 guys out there on the field all moving at the same time," Belichick said. "It's not a track meet. It's not a jumping contest. Those are measures of athletic ability and we use them just like everybody else does, but ultimately it comes down to players playing the game."
Spikes appeared both comfortable and confident in his interview with reporters, clearly not in awe of being part of an NFL environment for the first time. While other rookies seemed cautious while speaking to the press, Spikes appeared to be in his element, exuding a presence that makes him a candidate to become a leader among the team's younger players.
On the field, he lined up at inside linebacker, making onlookers consider the possibilities of how a pairing between him and Jerod Mayo might look.
"I think the sky is the limit with that. He's a great player, we all know that," Spikes said of Mayo. "With him, I just want to get under his wing and let him teach me the ropes. I know he's had a lot of success here so far, so I'm all ears."
Upon his arrival at Gillette Stadium, Spikes said he took note of all the pictures hanging in the facility. He said he asked Belichick the significance of the pictures and learned that they were from victories the team had over the years, which added to his excitement of joining the team.
Spikes also expressed surprise that he was issued jersey number 55, which was last worn by Junior Seau. He said he met Seau last year at the Florida/Georgia game, in which Seau was working as a sideline reporter for his "Sports Jobs" television show.
Outside linebacker Jermaine Cunningham, a second-round draft choice out of Florida, said this was his first time in Massachusetts. He joked that there were a few anxious moments as his plane was touching down at Logan Airport on Thursday because all he saw was water before the runway finally appeared. He said another reminder of his new surroundings came on the drive from Logan to Gillette Stadium when cars were traveling in the breakdown lane. Tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed the 2009 season because of a back injury that required surgery, said he is 100 percent. The second-round draft choice out of Arizona participated in both practices. Cunningham is currently at 266 pounds after playing last season at 260. He said he likes the added weight and hopes to stay around there. First-round draft choice Devin McCourty, the cornerback from Rutgers, on his first practice with the Patriots: "It's kind of like entering college as a freshman. You have to learn everything all over again." Receiver Taylor Price, the third-round draft choice out of Ohio, on his goal for rookie minicamp: "Just trying to improve on what I did each and every practice and try to learn as much as I can, and soak up as much information as I can to take with me. Free agent Dane Fletcher, who played defensive end at Montana State, is working at inside linebacker. Cunningham called former Mississippi and current Baltimore Raven Michael Oher the toughest offensive lineman he faced in college. Longtime radio play-by-play man Gil Santos attended Friday's morning practice. Patriots All-Access, the team's television show, airs Saturday night at 7 p.m. (WBZ-TV, Boston) and promises behind-the-scenes footage from the team's draft room.
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