Bengals Spikes excited after talks with Buffalo

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 7, 2003

''Yeah, I would not have come if it weren't for real,'' Spikes said Thursday after meeting with Bills officials, including team owner Ralph Wilson.

Spikes then pulled out a disposable camera and had a team staff member take a picture of him posing with reporters.

''I just wanted to thank you for welcoming me,'' Spikes said. ''It's for my scrapbook.''

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Spikes' chances of coming to Buffalo hinge on whether the Bills can make him an offer the Cincinnati Bengals either can't or won't match.

Last month, the Bengals retained Spikes' rights by applying their transition tag, tendering him a one-year, $4.8 million offer. Spikes can receive offers from other teams, which the Bengals have the right to match within seven days.

Spikes was unhappy by the Bengals' move. He wanted to cut his ties after spending five consecutive losing seasons with a team that went 19-61 over that span.

''Change is good for everybody,'' he said. ''And from my point right now, I think that change would be more than welcome.''

The Bills were the first team he visited.

Bills president Tom Donahoe declined to comment after meeting with Spikes. But he previously said he had not ruled out making the player an offer.

Spikes said he was impressed by the team's complex.

''I've got my fingers crossed and everything, and just waiting to see what happens,'' he said.

Spikes, a 1998 first-round draft pick, is a hard-hitting player who led Cincinnati in tackles four times. He would be a significant addition -- expected to play the weak side -- to a Buffalo defense that ranked 27th in points allowed, 29th in yards rushing per game, and 32nd in takeaways.

The Bills currently have about $7 million of space available under the salary cap -- and could open up $5 million more if they trade or lift the franchise tag from receiver Peerless Price. Donahoe has made clear his intention of bolstering his defense, particularly at linebacker.

Spikes received a warm welcome in Buffalo once before.

With speculation the team would be interested in Spikes, Bills fans cheered him during Cincinnati's 27-9 loss at Buffalo in last year's season finale.

''That was impressive. I thought I was coming out at Cincinnati. They made me feel welcome,'' Spikes said. ''That plays a big factor, and it's a bonus part of it just because you always want to go somewhere you feel like you're wanted as a person.''