FOXBOROUGH — No stranger to controversy, Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes was at the epicenter of a social media whirlwind Thursday over a homophobic joke he posted on Twitter.
Spikes, a third-year linebacker out of Florida, posted a comment on his Twitter feed Wednesday that read: “I’m homophobic just like I’m arachnophobic. I have nothing against homosexuals or spiders but I’d still scream if I found one in my bathtub!’’
Although Spikes said he meant it as a joke, he backtracked after being rebuked by several followers. Three hours after posting his original comment, Spikes tweeted, “PEOPLE!!!! It’s a joke …seriously a JOKE!!! Chill out.’’
As it turns out, it may not have even been Spikes’s own material.
Spikes seemed to be paraphrasing British comedian Jack Whitehall, who said in a monologue 18 months ago, “I’m not homophobic. Well, I suppose I’m homophobic in the same sense I’m arachnophobic. I’m not scared of spiders. I’m not scared of gays, but I would scream if I saw one in my bath.’’
As for the team’s reaction, Patriots spokesman Stacey James said only, “The team has no comment.”
Spikes was not available for comment in the locker room during media availability Thursday, so his teammates were left to deal with the distraction.
“I haven’t seen anything, so I can’t really comment on it,’’ said receiver Wes Welker, who generated headlines himself earlier in the week with his own attempt at humor. After making 13 catches for 104 yards in Sunday’s victory over the Broncos, Welker said during a TV interview, “Yeah, it’s kind of nice to stick it in Bill’s face once in a while,’’ in reference to coach Bill Belichick.
Welker, like many of his teammates, deflected repeated attempts for comment about Spikes’s tweet.
“I’m just concentrating on Seattle, so I really don’t have any comment at all about it,’’ Welker said.
Asked if he was a big tweeter, Welker replied, “Yeah, [but] I haven’t really tweeted in the past month or so, so I haven’t really looked at it at all. I’ve just been concentrating on the season.’’
Jerod Mayo and Vince Wilfork likewise kept their attention on Sunday’s game.
“That’s where all my focus is, on the Seattle Seahawks, so I have nothing to add to it,’’ Mayo said.
Said Wilfork, “If it don’t have nothing to do with Seattle, I don’t care about it — plain and simple.”
Asked if he was embarrassed by Spikes’s remarks, Wilfork, a defensive captain, replied, “If it has nothing to do with Seattle, then I don’t even know about it. I watch SpongeBob SquarePants, you can ask anybody. So I don’t have time to look at everything else being said, because that’s my life at home.’’
Spikes was embroiled in controversy during his rookie season for being in a pornographic video that was circulated on the Internet. Later that year, he was suspended four games for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
In college, Spikes was disciplined for attempting to gouge the eye of Georgia running back Washaun Ealey during a 2009 game.
Over the last 14 games, dating to Week 9 of the 2011 season, there has been no more productive running back in the NFL than Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch, who has rushed 324 times for 1,449 yards and 11 touchdowns.
“Sometimes he doesn’t even need a block,’’ Wilfork marveled. “He breaks a lot of tackles — a lot of tackles. He’s just a tough, tough back. He’s strong, physical, quick. He’s well put-together.
“You talk about backs who are elite backs, he’s probably one of the toughest backs. He can go anywhere.’’
And this is a guy known for gobbling up Skittles on the sidelines; Lynch treated them as “power pellets” when his mother fed them to him before his Pop Warner games.
“He can go out there and take on the defense himself,” said Wilfork. “He’s a really good back.’’
Russell Wilson is the third rookie quarterback to start for Seattle in franchise history, joining Jim Zorn and Rick Mirer. Wilson won the job over high-priced free agent Matt Flynn with an impressive preseason performance in which he completed 63.5 percent of his passes (40 of 63) for 536 yards and 5 touchdowns. Wilson is coming off a 16-12 victory at Carolina in which he set season highs for completions (19 of 25), completion percentage (76.0), and yards (221). But as far as Mayo is concerned, it is Wilson’s dual-threat capability that poses the biggest challenge. “Obviously, he’s a mobile quarterback and he can run, so he becomes like a sixth wide receiver on some of those plays,’’ Mayo said. “He’s moving around a lot, he can throw on the run, he can throw from the box, so he’s doing a lot of different things. He’s playing well.’’
Wide receiver Julian Edelman returned to practice but was wearing a protective wrap on his left hand, which he injured in the first half Sept. 23 at Baltimore. Safety Steve Gregory (hip), linebacker Tracy White (foot), and tight end Michael Hoomanawanui (concussion) were not present at practice, which was conducted in shorts and shells on the fields behind Gillette Stadium . . . Thirteen Patriots were listed as having limited participation, including Welker (ankle), Rob Gronkowski (hip), Aaron Hernandez (ankle), Dont’a Hightower (hamstring), Logan Mankins (calf/hip), and Sebastian Vollmer (back/knee). Lynch (back) took part in full participation at Seattle’s practice after being limited Wednesday. Tom Brady, who had limited participation in Wednesday’s practice because of his right shoulder, was removed from the injury report.