FOXBOROUGH — The last time the Bills prepared for the Patriots, Buffalo coach Rex Ryan said he was relying on unnamed sources to figure out whether he’d be facing Jimmy Garoppolo or Jacoby Brissett as New England’s quarterback.
This time, no secret intel is necessary.
“I had no idea who the heck the quarterback was going to be but I darn sure pretended, didn’t I?” Ryan said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. “I think, actually, my sources tell me that [Tom] Brady will be the quarterback [this week].”
Ryan’s Bills beat the Brady-less Patriots, 16-0, in Week 4. But having spent his entire head coaching career in the AFC East, Ryan knows the difference No. 12 can make.
“One of these days I keep thinking if I stay in this conference long enough that maybe that dude will retire, but I don’t see that happening any time soon,” Ryan said.
Ryan said the opportunity to beat the Patriots twice in a season doesn’t add anything to Sunday’s game in Buffalo.
Neither, he said, did the Week 4 pregame scuffle between Bills defensive backs and Brissett and Patriots rookie Malcolm Mitchell.
“Any of the extracurricular things, there’s absolutely zero focus on that and shouldn’t be any focus on that. It’s just about playing games,” Ryan said. “If people want to show how tough they are, put the boxing gloves on and get in the ring or something. That might be more impressive.”
“I don’t want Gronk, by the way,” Ryan added of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
The Patriots, of course, were less colorful than Ryan. Bill Belichick said his approach to Sunday’s game has nothing to do with his team’s loss to the Bills.
“Every game is its own entity,” Belichick said. “I don’t care about the games that have happened in the past. We’ve won them, we’ve lost them. I don’t think it matters.”
The players were a bit more forthcoming about Sunday’s stakes.
Chris Hogan, a former Bill who will be playing his first game back in Buffalo, said that it’s not payback but rather playoff positioning that makes it an important game.
The Patriots are two games ahead of the Bills in the division but just a game ahead of the Broncos and Raiders in the AFC.
“It’s an away game, it’s a league game for us,” Hogan said. “This will be a big game, just [with] the outcome of the previous game.”
Patriots safety Devin McCourty acknowledged that it could be a revenge game, although he didn’t seem too fired up about it.
“I guess so,” he said. “I mean, we want to win. I guess you can call it that if you want.”
McCoy misses practice
This time, it’s the Bills who may be without a key offensive piece against the Patriots.
Ryan addressed injury concerns over running back LeSean McCoy, who aggravated his hamstring in last Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins and did not practice Wednesday.
Ryan said he hoped McCoy would be available Sunday but that he’d “leave that to the trainers and the experts, our medical team, and obviously LeSean, and see how they feel going forward.
“His hamstring got a little tight in that game and as soon as that happened we took him out, but we’ll see how the week progresses and we’ll see about his availability.”
McCoy was one of 10 Bills to miss Wednesday’s practice, including wide receiver Marquise Goodwin (concussion), safety Aaron Williams (neck), and tight end Charles Clay (knee).
Linebacker Lorenzo Alexander did not practice but is not injured, according to the team’s injury report, and linebacker Zach Brown missed the session because of illness.
Patriots running back Dion Lewis was spotted in the locker room but not on the practice field.
Lewis remains on the physically unable to perform list after follow-up surgery on his knee. Lewis originally tore his ACL against the Redskins last November.
Belichick was asked earlier in the day if Lewis would be on the practice field Wednesday and said simply, “If he is, we’ll let you know.’’
Guard Tre’ Jackson, also on the PUP list, was at practice but just for stretching. The clock to be added to the active roster has not started on him, either.
Otherwise, the Patriots had full attendance at the shorts-and-shells session, including linebacker Kyle Van Noy, who was acquired from the Lions Tuesday. Eight players were limited: tight end Martellus Bennett (ankle), running back Brandon Bolden (knee), linebackers Jamie Collins (hip) and Elandon Roberts (ankle), wide receivers Mitchell (hamstring) and Julian Edelman, and defensive linemen Woodrow Hamilton (shoulder) and Vincent Valentine (back).
Defensive tackle Anthony Johnson, who was waived earlier in the week, was back on the field as a member of the practice squad. The team cut guard Chase Farris to make room for Johnson.