Takeo Spikes had a wish list. After last season, even with two years remaining on his contract, the 30-year-old linebacker knew he was finished in Buffalo, so he put together a list of qualities he valued in his next team:
A "stable backfield," particularly at running back and quarterback.
A tenured coaching staff, which in part meant a staff with postseason success.
A defensive line with, as Spikes put it, "some straight-up dogs," plus depth.
Talent at linebacker.
Check, check, check, check, check.
To say that Spikes, a two-time Pro Bowler who has played on one winning team in nine years in the NFL, was psyched when the Bills traded him to the Eagles in late March would be an understatement. He was euphoric. He got everything he wanted, and then some.
What did the Eagles get? An intense, hardworking, versatile veteran who is as hungry as anyone on their roster, someone so respected league-wide that he serves on the new six-player board that advises commissioner Roger Goodell.
The Eagles also got a beast at linebacker, a position they desperately needed to upgrade.
Bye-bye, "Bowtie" Dhani Jones. Hello, pit bull.
"You know what I asked my agent?" Spikes said Tuesday while sitting at the Eagles' NovaCare Complex after yet another full day of working out. "I said, 'Is it too good to be true? Are you for real?' . . . I knew once Philly stepped up to the plate, I was like, 'I'll see you later.' This is a prime-time opportunity. It was just a good situation."
The Eagles will hold their first of two mandatory off-season minicamps this weekend, but for Spikes, the work began weeks ago. He has been omnipresent at the Birds' practice facility, typically arriving by 8 a.m. and staying until well after lunch.
Spikes knows he needs to be at the complex, but not to gain headlines or prove anything to his new teammates or coaches. He needs the work. He needs to learn Jim Johnson's system, to get to know linebackers coach Sean McDermott, to familiarize himself with the terminology, and to work with Jeremiah Trotter and the other linebackers.
At this point in his career, Spikes doesn't have time to waste. He said he wanted to be ready for the minicamp so that once it started, "there ain't nothing that they can throw at me."
"I might have a brain [cramp] here and there, but I want it to be like, 'Damn, this guy here, it's almost like he's been here the past year instead of the past three weeks,' " he said.
We'll see this weekend, but certainly Spikes' new teammates are thrilled he's here. During a live interview from Florida with the NFL Network earlier this week, Brian Dawkins started clapping his hands and nodding his head at the mere mention of Spikes' name.
"You have no idea how jacked up I was," Dawkins said. He added that he was going to "try not to hyperventilate" playing behind Spikes in the secondary.
The feeling is mutual.
Spikes shares Dawkins' intensity. Dawkins once referred to the characteristic as "dog," as in "you can't fake dog."
Spikes doesn't fake it.
He also doesn't conceal his emotions. He leads the NFL with the most regular-season games played without appearing in a playoff game - 126 - according to the Elias Sports Bureau. When this statistic was brought to his attention, Spikes became very quiet, and very still.
"I don't like talking about it," he said. "I just don't like talking about it. It bothers me, it really does."
Spikes said he often had wondered how he would feel if his career ended without a playoff appearance, much less a playoff victory. He played for the Cincinnati Bengals from 1998 to 2002, and they didn't sniff the playoffs with a five-year record of 19-61. Then Spikes went to the Bills, who were 9-7 in 2004 but 27-37 overall.
It was not lost on Spikes that he had joined a team that had been to the postseason in seven of the last eight years.
"Philly is going to be all right regardless of whether I'm here or not," Spikes said. "It's just up to everybody coming together collectively and doing what needs to be done to get to Arizona. That's all I'm here to do."
Arizona, as in Super Bowl XLII. Spikes wants more than just a playoff appearance.
"Oh, no, it's not even just to get to the playoffs, not at all," he said. "I want it all. If it's out there, I want it all."
Spikes has checked several items off his wish list, but make no mistake, there are several more still to go.