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From the Locker Room

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Bills-Patriots matchup full of playmakers, John Brown is back and Greg Rousseau returns to practice


Patriots week is here, and that means the offense is getting ready to be tested by a divisional opponent with a tough defense. New England is allowing teams to put up less than 20 points a game and is also taking the ball away at a top five rate.

One player who's allowed them to play at such a high level is linebacker Matt Judon. The LB leads the NFL with 13 sacks.

As quarterback Josh Allen prepares for Thursday, he knows he'll have to be ready for Judon and New England's multiple looks on defense.

"He's a game wrecker right now," Allen said of Judon. "I think he leads the league in sacks. Their secondary – it's a Patriots secondary, guys that are smart, tough football players that can play multiple spots. They play man from zone looks and zone from man looks, and I think that's why a lot of people struggle against them. 

"They can show you so many different things and do so many different things. So trusting our base rules, trusting my eyes and making the smart decision and living to fight another down."

Allen said it'll be important for him to not predetermine anything pre-snap and wait until after the snap to decide what defense they're in and where he's going with the football.

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs said it's important for the team to really focus on the details this week when playing against a defense that always seems to be in the right place at the right time. That ability has allowed the Patriots to be a top 10 defense as they allow an average of 109.3 rushing yards per game and 198.5 passing yards per game. 

Diggs said one thing he can do to make life easier for Allen on Thursday is being there for his QB.

"Just getting open and having good body language, I would say," Diggs said. "Josh likes to see that early and often. And having that good body language to really show you being in the right place at the right time and trusting that he'll find you."

Buffalo's schedule has been anything but easy lately. From a snowstorm to a short week to back-to-back Thursday games, this team has had everything thrown their way. The group has three games in 12 days and thinks what's been the most helpful during this time is knowing this season has been anything but common.

"We had game one, then went straight to a Monday night, had a Sunday night and had a four o'clock Sunday game," Allen said. "We've just been so up in the air with our schedule. I think Coach McDermott's done such a great job of being smart with how we're practicing. When we're going full pads, when to give guys a little bit of a break. When you have a coach that's willing to do that and make sure guys are well rested, guys appreciate that. So I think it's the leadership that we have on this team. It starts with Coach McDermott and making sure that guys are ready to go."

Smoke is back

Shaq Lawson, Jordan Phillips, Dean Marlowe, A.J. Klein and now John "Smoke" Brown. The Bills have been leaning on players this year who had stints in Buffalo and wanted to come back, and it's been paying off. Buffalo welcomed Brown back to their roster on Saturday afternoon. The WR originally played for the Bills from 2019 to 2020.

Brown was not previously on a team this season but made sure to stay in shape in case someone had interest. The WR said he got the call from the Bills the day before Thanksgiving.

"Me and Coach Chad (Hall) kept in contact, and I was texting him and I told him I was still working out," Brown said. "So, I was able to send him some videos of me working out. And then, I ended up getting a call."

His teammates are happy he's back in Buffalo and believe he can be a part of the offense.

"It's good to see Smoke back, it's good to have him back," quarterback Josh Allen said. "We love him in this locker room. We've missed him the last year. It's a veteran presence who knows our offense. 

"He can still play too. I don't know really what the plan is, it's not up to me. But it's a guy I trust, I've got a lot of familiarity with, a guy that I can rely on so it's good to have him back."

Brown led the team with over 1,000 receiving yards in 2019. The WR had some of his most successful years with the Bills and said it feels like he's back at home.

"Just the way you're treated, the way the organization treats you," Brown said of his love for Buffalo. "The way the fans and just the whole town of Buffalo, they treat us with a whole bunch of respect. You don't find many places like that. So to be able to come back and just to be part of it is a great thing because I watch every game. Since I left, I've been rooting the guys on. I still stayed in contact with a lot of people."

In terms of what role he wants to play on offense, Brown said he'll do whatever is needed. He also said he doesn't think it'll take too much time to pick up the offense again because it's already coming back to him. Diggs agrees and is looking forward to having him out there.

"I expect him to adjust pretty good," Diggs shared. "I think he's gonna be out there playing real, real soon and playing fast. I feel like it adds back to our depth. We had some guys get injured, so he has to give us a little bit more firepower for those guys and outside."

Greg Rousseau "feeling good" to start practice week

Bills DE Greg Rousseau has missed the last three games with an ankle injury but got back on the practice field on Sunday. Rousseau said he feels close to returning to play. 

"I'm feeling good man, pretty close for sure. I'm happy to be back out here with my teammates. So I missed it a lot, just blessed to be back out here," he said.

The second-year pro had been off to a great start to the season, recording five sacks in his first eight games. He said the last few weeks have been difficult for him and not being able to contribute.

"It's tough when you just watch it," Rousseau said. "You're so used to being out there and making plays and stuff. But just being having to sit back and have to take that roll up and just helping your teammates out, let them know what you see. So you can't be selfish."

In his absence, several players up front have stepped up, including Ed Oliver who has 1.5 sacks, 1 safety forced and 1 forced fumble over his last three games.

"He's playing great, it's fun to see him go off like that and also do the whole like lasso horse thing. Ed Oliver is a dawg," Rousseau said.

Ike Boettger returns to practice after long road back from injury

Bills offensive lineman Ike Boettger made his return to practice on Sunday, the first time he's been on the field with the team since he suffered a torn Achilles in Week 16 last season. Boettger has been on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list since the beginning of the season but the Bills officially opened up his 21-day practice window.

The lineman said he was very excited to get back on the practice field even in a limited capacity.

"I think I was the most antsy just for today. Now I can just kind of get into my process and try to get a little routine down," Boettger said. "Just try to progress and get back to being able to help the guys if they need me."

Boettger's road to recovery hasn't been easy. Back in August, Bills GM Brandon Beane said the 5th-year pro had a setback in his rehab over summer. But Boettger has done his part to overcome those physical hurdles and at least give himself a chance to play this season. His teammates have been impressed with the way he's attacked his rehab during the regular season.

"He's a king. I freaking love Ike," QB Josh Allen said. "I don't think you can find one guy in the world that has a bad thing to say about Ike. The ultimate, ultimate team guy. I know he's had quite a bit of a journey to get back to where he's at right now."

Boettger's positive attitude and hard working nature during the process have been noticed inside the facility, even if he hasn't been on the field.

"He's spent countless hours here, even back home in Iowa going to different places and getting treatment there," Allen said. "Doing everything that he can do to get back on the field with his teammates. Guys love that, admire that about him."

It's unclear whether or not Boettger will play this season — the lineman himself said today he wasn't sure one way or another — but Beane said at the beginning of November he did think Boettger would be able to suit up at some point this year.

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