Moving to a new city to play for a new team, especially a former rival, is always a difficult transition for a player to make. What has made that transition even more demanding for Brandon Spikes is the expectation that he take on a leadership role in defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's defense.
But Spikes is ready and willing to take on that burden.
"A lot of the guys here are familiar with me, we played in the past twice a year. So they pretty much know what I'm about," Spikes said. "At the same time there are some new guys, so I just want to gain respect from them and let them know that I will be accountable and do my job by any means necessary."
His defensive teammates already know that he can produce. In the last two years with the Patriots, Spikes racked up 177 tackles and forced four fumbles in 31 games, including 25 starts.
Spikes is now penciled in at the middle linebacker position in the Bills 4-3 defensive scheme, which is much different than the multiple-look defense that Bill Belichick deploys in New England.
"In New England it's a little bit more complex, but here it gives you an opportunity to just play football, you know?" Spikes said. "Just be relentless, go all-out, get to the ball and make plays. You've got a responsibility and that is primary but at the same time you get to just go all out and play, that's what I love about it."
One of the staples of a Jim Schwartz defense is the ability to get pressure on the opposing quarterback with just four defenders. Ideally, this will allow Spikes, Kiko Alonso and company to roam free and make tackles in the open field.
"I'm just fortunate enough to be here and play in his scheme," Spikes said of Schwartz. "With the middle linebacker, all the guys in the past have thrived in this defense. So hopefully I'm fortunate enough to play at a high level in it as well."
Before the ball is snapped, Spikes is still responsible for making the correct calls to get his teammates aligned correctly. Just within the first few days of OTAs, it has been clear who the vocal leader of the defensive unit has been. Spikes is yelling instructions to direct teammates based on offensive look.
"All the basic stuff right now," Spikes said of the pre-snap calls he is responsible for knowing. "It hasn't gotten to complex yet, but it will. I've just got to make sure everybody is lined up correctly, that's one of my jobs as the middle linebacker."
Spikes has had to walk the fine line between assuming the leadership responsibilities that come with the middle linebacker position, and not alienating some of his more veteran teammates, players who have been in the Bills locker room for multiple seasons. It seems as though he has already won over Kyle Williams.
"He's enthusiastic about it," Williams said of Spikes calling the defense. "He gets the calls out fast. We had one little bobble out there. He came over and said, 'This is what I made the mistake on. I'll get it right.' Which is something I appreciate. He's a professional. He's here to play and he's here to win."
"You've got to be accountable," Spikes said. "You don't want to be that guy that when it was your time to go, you didn't seize the moment. That is important to me."