9-30-033, 6:30 a.m.
BY GEOFF HOBSON
Marvin Lewis set the tone for his administration back in January when he couldn't hide his displeasure with his early conversations with linebacker Takeo Spikes.
Lewis set the tone for Sunday's game against Spikes' Bills in Buffalo at his Monday news conference when asked the first of what will be an infinite number of questions about him this week.
"Yeah," Lewis said. "I think Takeo plays linebacker for the Buffalo Bills."
Spikes pretty much fired back in Buffalo at about the same time without knowing what Lewis said. Asked if he wanted to prove he was worth the money, Spikes told the Buffalo media he would let his play speak for itself.
Spikes has always been upset the Bengals came at him with what he thought was a lukewarm offer before last season's training camp. But in the end, it really didn't come down to money because it's no secret Bengals President Mike Brown probably would have held true to form and matched the Bills' six-year, $32 million offer sheet back in March.
But Lewis opted to take what amounted to Spikes' $11 million bonus and cashed it in for up-front money for new defensive starters Kevin Hardy, John Thornton, and Tory James.
In the end, Spikes didn't want to wait around for Lewis' rebuilding efforts after winning 19 games in the five years after the Bengals took him with the 13th pick in the 1998 draft.
Spikes' close friend, Bengals right tackle Willie Anderson, summed up the split best: "Takeo couldn't predict the future, and Marvin couldn't look into the past. . . Two guys who didn't really know each (other's) situation."
When the Bengals didn't match Buffalo's offer sheet, fellow linebacker and '98 first-round classmate Brian Simmons allowed, "It's like Who Dey is leaving town, the team mascot."
And, in the end, Lewis and Spikes got what they
both wanted. Lewis got to send a powerful message to the locker room right away that it didn't matter who it was, if you didn't want to jump on board, he'd move on. Spikes, who lobbied hard to get out after Lewis took the job, got to become the centerpiece of a perennial playoff contender.
"I think Marvin did him a favor," said quarterback Jon Kitna. "He didn't want to be here anymore. He wanted to get a new start. We lost a great caliber football player, but we like the team we have here. You don't want guys here that just dread coming into work and dread being on the team. You don't want that."
The first two weeks were certainly what Spikes had hoped and prayed for as the Bills rolled to victories and he was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week in the opener with two interceptions. But the last two weeks have been losses, and his presence that has dominated the Buffalo media since he arrived took center stage again Monday.
He didn't talk after Sunday's loss to the Eagles. On Monday, he cited some of his post-game outbursts early in his Cincinnati career that he didn't like how they looked in the paper on some Monday mornings.
He didn't have much to say this Monday about the impending matchup, and he couldn't be reached for comment. But he'll probably be around Wednesday. Spikes has already done three of the Bills' four opposing media conference calls.
"It's big; it's real big," Spikes said. "Just to know where I've come from, knowing where I'm at now, and knowing where I want to go, that's how big an emotional game this game is going to be for me."
Anderson has told his teammates not to talk to Spikes. He warned them after Sunday's victory in Cleveland that he would be calling. Presto, Spikes was on the horn to defensive tackle Tony Williams when he couldn't get an answer from Anderson.
"He's the same person I am," Anderson said. "He's looking for information. . .I called him a couple of weeks ago when he got mad I wasn't calling him back."
They're still tight. Both live in Atlanta during the offseason. They vacationed in Puerto Rico recently. "When February comes, we'll kick it again," Anderson said. They talked all through training camp, but then Anderson wanted to cool it.
But he's been watching. He saw the opener.
"It's like the media was waiting for him to get out of here," Anderson said. "They didn't want to bestow that on anybody in Cincinnati. Corey (Dillon) is one of the top backs in the league, but still, his name is not as prestigious as other guys, and he's had 1,200 yards every year he's been here."
Anderson said Spikes couldn't foresee some of the wide-ranging power Lewis would have as the head coach and that Brown would allow him to implement so many of the massive changes.
"I tell him and he says, 'That's good. That's good. It's better here," Anderson said. "He'll say, 'We've got this. We've got this in Buffalo.' That's Takeo."