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For Takeo Spikes, talking about football in public began as therapy.
"I used to be frustrated and mad after we'd lose a game," the linebacker said, recalling his bottled-up days as a young pro. "But once I talked about it, I felt like I was better."
Spikes, now with the San Diego Chargers, liked chatting football on the radio so much he made a side gig out of it. Wherever he played -- Cincinnati his first three seasons, then Buffalo, Philadelphia and San Francisco -- a local radio or TV station made him a regular.
Studio broadcasting interests him as a second career, said Spikes, who took part in the NFL Broadcast Boot Camp. And the two-time Pro Bowler's style with a microphone is the same as on the football field -- direct.
"I'm just going to tell you what I see," he said. "At the end of the day, everybody respects the truth. You might not like it, but you respect it."
As impressed as some broadcasters are with NFL stars, Spikes is impressed with several broadcasters. Among his favorites are Solomon Wilcots, a former NFL defensive back who works for the NFL Network and CBS Sports, and Troy Aikman, an analyst for Fox.
"I love Mike Tirico," he said of the ESPN announcer. "He always gives you little punches that bring you close, to make it personalized."
He also spoke in awe of "J.B." -- "I've never seen James Brown stumble," he said of the host of shows for CBS and Showtime.
Entering his 14th NFL season, Spikes sees several storylines bubbling across the league.
"You wonder exactly what is going on up in New England, whether or not they're going to stay in the 3-4 (defense) or the 4-3 with some of the moves they made," he said. "Albert Haynesworth was adamant about not playing the 3-4 in Washington. He's up there in New England now, so why would you take a risk if you knew that?
"Sleeper teams -- Arizona could be one with the upgrade of (quarterback) Kevin Kolb," he said.
"Detroit, I think they can be an 8-8 team. If (quarterback Matthew) Stafford comes back early in training camp and stays healthy, I really see Detroit being a a team that can win at least 10 games.
"The Cowboys should be a lot better than last year," he added, citing new defensive coordinator Rob Ryan. "I just think he has the attention of everybody on the defensive side of the ball."
If his favorite announcers are calling Chargers games in the postseason, so much the better for Spikes. The 34-year-old has yet to reach the playoffs and signed with San Diego two weeks ago because it represented his best chance to get there.
"I'm chasing a ring," he said.
The Chargers, who missed the playoffs last year but won the AFC West from 2006-09, are starting Spikes in their 3-4 defense. His football IQ was a big part of San Diego's decision to give him a three-year contract. Spikes already knows the system of Greg Manusky, the Chargers' new defensive coordinator, as the two were together in San Francisco the last four years.
Last season, Spikes played in all 16 games and had his most tackles since 2003.
"San Diego is going to be all right, with or without Takeo," Spikes said. "But to know what I bring to this team will not only make me better but make us better -- that's the way I'm looking at it."