FOXBORO - The Prodigal Son was back in uniform last week, jovial but sufficiently contrite, and hoping to proceed with his football career pretty much as if nothing had happened.
Brandon Spikes came as close to burning his bridges as any former Patriot could have when he left at the close of the 2013 season through free agency. But Friday at the Patriots' organized team activity practice, the linebacker from Florida said all was now sweetness and light.
"You can clearly see that me and the Hoodie kissed and made up," said Spikes, who spent last year with the rival Buffalo Bills. "I'm here. That's in the past and I'm moving on."
The Patriots signed Spikes to a one-year contract as a hedge against the possibility that linebackers Jerod Mayo and Dont'a Hightower will be limited as they recover from offseason surgeries. But it certainly is a case of strange bedfellows for Spikes, a second-round draft pick by the Patriots in 2010, and Patriots' coach Bill Belichick to be reunited.
"I think we're both happy that I'm here, we were able to put things aside and bygones be bygones," Spikes said. "We're all moving forward. The 2015 season is right around the corner and we're just trying to take each and every day to get better. I'm happy, I'm happy to be home. This is the organization that drafted me - it's a first-class place and I'm very, very, very appreciative of that."
That's not how things seemed back in 2013. Spikes had played much of the season with a bad knee, but he was also considered somewhat of a loose cannon, undisciplined on and off the field, to the point where his obvious raw talent couldn't compensate for the lapses in concentration and decorum.
When he was late to a practice during a snowstorm late in the season, the Patriots placed him on injured reserve. Spikes' agent claimed it to be punitive in nature, and everything degenerated from there.
Upon signing with the Bills, Spikes sent out a Tweet that claimed he was "four years a slave" with the Patriots. The response from Patriot Nation was swift and harsh, leading Spikes to severely limit access to his social media accounts.
All is forgiven, he said Friday.
"Yeah, I unblocked everybody," he said. "I'm not going to give them that power over me anymore. It is what it is. I'm still going to interact with the fans, more of the Patriot fans - they're very passionate fans. If a player had left my organization like that I would have done the same thing, so no bad blood with that."
Spikes had 54 tackles and one sack with the Bills last year, and while the coaching staff referred to him as a "leader" on more than one occasion, it didn't seem convincing. No efforts were made to keep him, but apparently, Bill Belichick didn't harbor any ill feelings.
"When I talked with the Hoodie, we put it all behind us," Spikes said. "I was a bit surprised to hear his voice after I left, but, like I said, that's in the past. Honestly, I'm very thankful to be here and I just want to show him that I changed as an individual, as a man. I just want to show him. Rather than saying it, I just want to show him."
Spikes said that in his short time back with the Patriots, he's found things to be very familiar - except for the Super Bowl ring that he doesn't have.
"Nothing's changed," he said. "I was here for four years. I was a productive player, efficient, and it's just the same thing. They got that big ring and, you know, we're moving on from that, but some of the guys kind of throw it in my face. It is what it is. It's all fun and games. But I'm here to work and make this ballclub. It's that simple. I want to get better each and every day and help control what I can control.
"(The ring) makes me want to get up early in the morning and get in here and work and gives me that chip, that extra edge I need in order to get better every day," he said. "I want to strive to get better and get me one of those things that I can show my kids some day."
In the meantime, Spikes knows he's on a short leash. It's good to know he was wanted, but that goes only so far.
"Each and every year, you have to prove yourself," he said. "Nothing is handed you, you have to earn it. That's one of the reasons I like coming here because each and every day you have to go out and prove it and put it on tape and let the staff know you should be here and be a part of the Patriots.
"So no, the transition isn't really anything to me," he said. "I know the Patriot Way. Trust me, I know the Patriot Way. I'm all for it. It works. Clearly, it works."