Usually when a player finds his way into Bill Belichick’s doghouse, it’s hard to get out. But the Patriots coach made a rare exception for Brandon Spikes.


The last time Spikes was with the Pats, Belichick benched him for showing up late to practice. Spikes never played for Belichick again, sitting out the entire 2013 playoffs and signing with Buffalo the following offseason.


Just when it looked like Spikes had burned his last bridge to Foxboro, the Patriots decided to bring him back on a one-year contract. New England viewed Spikes as an insurance policy for injured linebackers Jerod Mayo and Dont’a Hightower. To keep his job, all Spikes had to do was walk the straight and narrow.


Needless to say, Spikes’ stint in New England did not last long. Police found his abandoned Maybach on a Massachusetts highway early Sunday morning. Authorities are now investigating Spikes for a hit-and-run that sent three people to the hospital. No charges have been filed but the bad press was enough for the Patriots to cut him loose.


Safe is always better than sorry in today’s no-nonsense NFL. The Adrian Peterson and Ray Rice scandals have changed the landscape dramatically. Players who find themselves in hot water, particularly repeat offenders like Spikes, are no longer given the benefit of the doubt. One false step is all it takes.


It’s a shame because the Patriots really could have used Spikes. Out of 60 qualified inside linebackers last season, Pro Football Focus gave Spikes the ninth-highest grade against the run. The 27-year-old will probably be out of work until his investigation wraps up.


In other Patriots-related discipline, Super Bowl hero Malcolm Butler was held out for nearly three weeks of OTAs after arriving late to the first day of workouts. Butler’s flight to Foxboro was delayed because of weather. Because OTAs are technically voluntary, the NFLPA is looking into whether Belichick had any grounds to punish Butler. For what it’s worth, Butler has returned to practice and was at the team’s facility even when he wasn’t allowed to take the field.


National Fantasy Football Convention Cancelled


Putting on a National Fantasy Football Convention sounds like a great idea. Having that event in Vegas sounds like an even better one. Having Tony Romo host it sounds almost too good to be true.


And it was. The NFL cancelled the convention last week. It would have been held at The Venetian from July 10-12. Antonio Brown, Dez Bryant, Rob Gronkowski, Julio Jones and DeMarco Murray were a few of the players that were supposed to attend.


According to league rules, “NFL personnel may not participate in promotional activities or other appearances in connection with events that are held at or sponsored by casinos.” Romo voiced his displeasure on The Herd with Colin Cowherd, comparing the cancellation to “when you’re in high school and you don’t get invited to the party.”


Romo has a hunch the league’s decision had more to do with money than its anti-casino policy. “If they really wanted to just be a part of it all they had to do was just call and ask … We understand that these things come about and there’s big money involved sometimes from the NFL’s perspective.” Mostly, Romo was miffed because the league went behind his back, going through the Players’ Association to talk players out of attending.


In a moment of inexplicably bad taste, the NFL’s Twitter account trolled Romo Wednesday with a mocking “Hi Tony!” tweet. The post was quickly deleted. Romo noticed the jab but chose to take the high road. “Obviously when someone takes it down after nine minutes, it tells you probably all you need to know.”


Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall was scheduled to appear at a different fantasy football event in Las Vegas and also had to cancel. “I have some strong feelings on it, personally,” he said. “But I’m going to keep those to myself right now. I just got here, so I’m going to wait a couple more months before I rock the boat.”


It’s encouraging to see players embracing the culture of fantasy football even if it means bumping heads with the NFL. Next year’s NFFC will be held in Los Angeles. Everyone who registered for this year’s event was given a refund.


Wilson, Seahawks Still Far Apart


Seahawks QB Russell Wilson finished with the league’s 10th-highest passer rating last season. According to, he’ll be the league’s 47th-highest paid quarterback in 2015.


That doesn’t add up.


We know Wilson is going to get paid, but how much? Predictably, the Seahawks and Wilson don’t share the same school of thought on this. Wilson is hoping for Aaron Rodgers money while Seattle’s offer is more in the Andy Dalton range.


With little progress being made on the Wilson front, the Seahawks have shifted their focus to Bobby Wagner. Like Wilson, the 24-year-old will head to free agency after this season. Pro Football Focus gave Wagner the fifth-highest grade among inside linebackers last season so losing him is not an option.


If Seattle can get Wagner taken care of, the Seahawks can buy time with Wilson by assigning him the franchise tag in 2016. Though most players understandably prefer the long-term security of a contract extension, the franchise tag could pay Wilson over $20 million. That’s a pretty hefty raise. Wilson’s current base salary is only $1,542,000.


Remember, Wilson once had a budding baseball career in the minor leagues with the Colorado Rockies. The Texas Rangers own his rights and though it’s doubtful Wilson would abandon the gridiron for another shot at baseball, he could use it as leverage in negotiations. John Elway and Bo Jackson famously turned to baseball after getting drafted by teams they didn’t want to play for. The Seahawks would probably see through it, but Wilson and his agent Mark Rodgers will explore all avenues. Rodgers penned a 16-page letter to the Seahawks this week, asserting that Wilson is content to play out the rest of his contract.


In the mean time, Wilson has enjoyed throwing to newcomer Jimmy Graham. Considered a lazy blocker during his time with New Orleans, Graham is working hard to change that perception. “Listen, man,” said Graham. “I’m 270 pounds. I can block anybody I want to.”


AFC Quick Hits: Geno Smith is up to his old tricks. The Jets quarterback tossed three picks at OTAs on Tuesday. Two of them were inside the red zone, prompting this lecture from head coach Todd Bowles, “The thing you don’t want to do is when you’re in red-zone drills, you don’t want to turn it over and give up the three points” … Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie grabbed the microphone Tuesday to interview teammate Dee Milliner. The scene escalated from fun to confrontational when Cromartie asked Milliner about being on the “roster bubble” … Jets defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson said he and teammate Muhammad Wilkerson want “[Ndamukong] Suh money” when their contracts expire. Good luck with that … In other delusional contract requests, Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said his goal is to land a $100 million contract. For that to happen, he’ll have to be a lot better than he was in 2014. Bortles finished with the lowest quarterback rating in the NFL last season (69.5) … Twitter had a field day Wednesday when the Colts revealed their “2014 AFC Finalist” banner at Lucas Oil Stadium. Way to aim for the middle, Indy …  Colts owner Jim Irsay is confident T.Y. Hilton will sign a contract extension “sooner than later.” Hilton totaled 1,345 receiving yards last season, sixth-most in the NFL … 42-year-old Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri drilled a 61-yard field goal at practice this week. He’s still got it … Steelers second-year wideout Martavis Bryant bulked up to 225 pounds this offseason. He did most of his training in Hollywood alongside Giants receiver Odell Beckham … Ravens reporter John Eisenberg considers this a “mini contract year” for Joe Flacco. Owed $18 million in 2016, the Ravens would be wise to reduce Flacco’s enormous cap number … Ravens receiver Breshad Perriman dropped eight passes at Central Florida last season. Since rookie camp opened last month, he’s only dropped one … T.J. Houshmandzadeh has joined the Bengals’ staff as a coaching intern. Houshmandzadeh is seventh on the team’s all-time receiving list with 5,782 yards … Bengals defensive line coach Jay Hayes said Geno Atkins has looked “scary” at OTAs. Atkins was tentative last year coming off an ACL tear … Bills receivers have been wearing their game uniforms during practice. The game jerseys are tighter, which makes it harder for defenders to grab on … Bills coach Rex Ryan said right guard Richie Incognito has been “outstanding” at OTAs. Incognito hasn’t played an NFL regular season game since the bullying scandal that prompted his departure from the Dolphins in 2013 … LeBron James bowed in front of legendary running back Jim Brown at Tuesday’s NBA Finals. There aren’t many people who can make The King bow down … The Browns acquired punter Andy Lee from the 49ers on Saturday. The 32-year-old is a four-time All-Pro selection … After visiting with several teams, C.J. Mosley finally signed a one-year deal with Miami. Pro Football Focus graded him 26th out of 81 qualified defensive tackles last season … Johnny Manziel has moved in with Julius Scott, his former high school offensive coordinator … Raiders safety Charles Woodson has attended every practice this offseason. That’s a first for the 18-year veteran … The Chargers will retire LaDainian Tomlinson’s No. 21 this season. The former MVP is fifth on the NFL’s all-time rushing list … Derek Carr returned to practice on Tuesday. The Raiders quarterback missed OTAs with an injured ring finger … Knile Davis doesn’t lack for confidence. The Chiefs halfback said he doesn’t “feel like there’s a gap” between he and Jamaal Charles.


NFC Quick Hits: Saints receiver Brandin Cooks vowed not to think as much this year. “Some of that thinking I was doing last year can really slow you down” … Nick Toon has emerged as New Orleans’ No. 3 wideout behind Cooks and Marques Colston. Drew Brees only targeted Toon 23 times last season … Doctors still haven’t decided if Saints linebacker Junior Galette needs surgery on his injured pectoral. If Galette goes under the knife, he could miss most or all of the upcoming season … Don’t expect Adrian Peterson to appear in any preseason games. The Vikes are taking things nice and slow with their franchise halfback … Giants CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie gave his No. 21 to rookie safety Landon Collins. Collins is wearing 21 to honor the late Redskins safety Sean Taylor … Cardinals coach Bruce Arians closed minicamp a day early so his team could rest up before training camp … The Bears signed veteran cornerback Tracy Porter to a one-year deal on Monday. Porter famously intercepted Brett Favre and Peyton Manning during the Saints’ run to the Super Bowl in 2009 … Golfer Bubba Watson paid a visit to Seahawks OTAs on Wednesday. The U.S. Open will be played next week in University Place, Washington … Another week of OTAs and still no sign of Demar Dotson. The Buccaneers defensive tackle is holding out for a new contract … Vernon Davis has impressed Niners coach Jim Tomsula at OTAs. The tight end’s contract expires after this season … The Cowboys have installed a new virtual reality system at the team’s practice facility. Several college programs including Stanford have already started using this technology … The Lions are concerned about Joique Bell’s conditioning. He got a late start this offseason after undergoing knee and Achilles’ surgeries … The Lions worked out Ben Tate earlier this week. The journeyman running back played for three teams last season …’s Jordan Raanan said Eli Manning’s interceptions “have almost completely disappeared” at OTAs. The Giants quarterback has finished among the top-10 in picks each of the last five seasons … Odell Beckham is questionable for next week’s minicamp. He sat out OTAs this week with a tight hamstring … Jordy Nelson returned to practice on Wednesday. The Packers wideout spent most of the offseason recovering from hip surgery.

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