'Get back up there'

7-22-01, 8:00 p.m.

BY GEOFF HOBSON

GEORGETOWN, Ky. _ When Takeo Spikes called his father for the second time Sunday, Jim Spikes wanted to know how his son felt. After all, the kid had just gone through his first practice of the season with virtually no sleep.

"I told him it went all right," said Takeo Spikes, the Bengals defensive captain. "I'll call him every day. The only question is, 'How many times?'"

Spikes arrived here Sunday morning, about a day and a half after check-in, but his play looked as reliable as ever at right outside linebacker. Although he admitted he had to adjust to quite a different training-camp practice than the previous three seasons.

"Yeah, it's tougher," Spikes said after a practice that was five minutes short of two hours. " I thought he had added some stuff, man. It was real high, up-tempo."

He got permission from head coach Dick LeBeau to spend some extra time with Jim Spikes at his father's Sandersville, Ga., home during a siege against a brain tumor that began back in February. Finally, on Saturday, Jim Spikes looked at his youngest son and said, " Get on back up there, you've got to pay for the house I'm living in."

After a frightening incident in which a disoriented Jim Spikes didn't know his son for a stretch when his blood sugar crashed, the words served to lift Spikes into his fourth season.

"It hurt me to see him like that. . . but it's like God put his hands on him. Spikes said. "He's alert. He's aware. He had to be or else I wouldn't have come back. . .Put me on the scout team, but you've only got one father."

At 61, Jim Spikes is the father his son viewed as a role model growing up about an hour from Atlanta. Even

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though Jim didn't play football. He just lived his life.

"He's one of the old breed guys back in the South," Spikes said. "He had to quit school to keep the house. . .A great man."

Spikes spent a part of last week at a Sandersville hospital keeping the nightly vigil. He'd try to get Jim to fall asleep, but it wouldn't happen until about 5 a.m. each of the two or three nights. Takeo spent the night in a chair nodding off for a minute at a time. Then when other family showed up, he'd try to catch a nap, go work out, and do it all again.

So it won't be a surprise if Takeo shows up for Monday's practice with Jim's name written on his wrist tape. Spikes has been known to keep people in his thoughts that way, the last one being his middle linebacker, Brian Simmons.

Sunday marked the first time Spikes and Simmons _ the book-end first-rounders from 1998_ had been in pads together since Simmons suffered a season-ending knee injury in last year's regular-season opener and Spikes wrote "56," on his wrist.

"You know how they say you can lead the horse to the trough, but you can't make him drink?" Spikes asked. "Damn, I'm going to make him drink this year. I'm fortunate enough I'm healthy right now, we've got Brian back, everybody back. If I'm slacking, get on me, but if anybody else is slacking, I'll be the first to jump down their throat."

Spikes was his usual fire-breathing self. With LeBeau instituting daily running, he knows he'll hear from players wanting him to get LeBeau to back off.

But Spikes said, "Full Metal Jacket. That's what we need."

He also vowed to supply "awesome numbers," not just for himself but for a defense he hopes can eke into some NFL top ten categories. But he's also looking at generating just 21 turnovers last year, an AFC low.

"We really can't just live our life (by numbers)," Spikes said. "We have to focus more on turnovers. If we can get the turnovers, the (defense) takes care of itself."

There is a reason now to be calling with good news. Less than two years ago, Spikes lost an uncle and grandmother within weeks of each other.

"I think I'm being set up to have a great year because of the inspiration," he said.

He goes into this season like his father. There is no timetable from the hospital except another dose of chemotherapy next month.

"He's a strong-willed person," Spikes said. "He's going to beat it. We're going to beat it together."

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