Spikes sees Brooks in mirror

11-29-01, 9:30 p.m.


At the moment, Takeo Spikes, who also plays weak side linebacker, has more sacks this season than four-time Tampa Bay Pro Bowler Derrick Brooks, 4-0. More tackles, 104-102. More interception yardage, 66-12.

Spikes, the Bengals' defensive captain, has always looked up to Brooks ever since he met Brooks as a high school senior. But that doesn't mean he feels like he's an inferior player as he gets ready for a showdown of sorts this Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium against Brooks' Buccaneers.

"I don't think he has anything that I don't have. Except some Pro Bowls," Spikes said Thursday. "In this league, it's very political. There are a lot of players out there who are just as good as the next man. It's just the team that they're on."

In the four years Brooks has gone to the Pro Bowl, the Bucs have been to the playoffs three times. In the four years Spikes has been in the league, he's got 11 sacks to Brooks' three

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during that same stretch. Brooks has eight interceptions to Spikes' five. Spikes has seven fumble recoveries to Brooks' two. Brooks has forced nine fumbles, Spikes four.

A wash? Not when the Bengals have won as may games (15) as Spikes has sacks and forced fumbles. He admires Brooks, but. . .

"He's been to the playoffs," Spikes said, "and that's probably the biggest difference."

Spikes doesn't think there ought to be that big of a difference in their paychecks, either. And Spikes, who has indicated he would like a new contract before next season, has noted Brooks recently signed a contract extension paying him about $7 million per year.

"Why not?" Spikes asked.

Brooks has been in the league three years longer than Spikes and they aren't carbon copies. The 6-0, 235-pound Brooks, with 67 career passes defensed, is seen as a special player in pass coverage. The 6-2, 245-pound Spikes, who has 11 passes defensed, is seen as a more physical, down-hill player.

"I had a high school teammate who went to Florida State, so I hung out with him my senior year and that was his last year there," Spikes said. "He's a good guy and a guy I still talk to when I see him around." **

THIS AND THAT:** Bengals head coach Dick LeBeau said Friday he doubts CB Artrell Hawkins (ankle) and LG Matt O'Dwyer (knee) can go Sunday, but he'll

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hold off until game time Sunday before making a decision. O'Dwyer practiced this week, but Hawkins didn't since suffering a high ankle sprain on the first play of last week's game. Bo Jennings will most likely be active no matter what, giving Cincinnati a full complement of its four cornerbacks. . .

The game won't be televised locally in Cincinnati. . . The Free Store/Food Bank and the Bengals put on their holiday food drive at Sunday's game. Money and canned gods will be collected at all gates. The FreeStore/FoodBank operates the largest food pantry in the Tristate and delivers 12 million pounds of food and products into needy homes. . .

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