FOXBORO, Mass. — Some notes and nuggets from Wednesday’s New England Patriots media availability at Gillette Stadium:
— Denver’s Sports Authority Field and Kansas City’s Arrowhead Stadium typically headline any discussion of the most difficult places to play in the NFL, but New Era Field in Buffalo is no picnic, either, especially for AFC East games.
The Patriots, who have lost in Buffalo just once since 2003, are expecting a downright hostile atmosphere when they visit the Bills on Sunday.
“It’s not really friendly for us up there,” safety Devin McCourty said. “It’s fun, though. When we pull into that stadium, there’s nobody happy to see that bus pull in there. A lot of middle fingers. A lot of mouthing words because we can’t hear it on the bus — we’ve got our headphones on. But doesn’t seem to be compliments of any sort. Their crowd comes, and they come loud and energized for Buffalo.”
McCourty went on to call New Era Field “one of the most underrated stadiums” the Patriots have played in. Though the Bills have not reached the playoffs since 1999, they’re known for having one of the NFL’s most passionate fanbases — the tailgate-loving, table-smashing Bills Mafia.
“It’s definitely unique,” safety Duron Harmon said. “It really reminds me of a college football atmosphere — how loud it is, how the fans are, how in tune they are to the game. It’s a wild place. But more so than not, I love playing there, because why wouldn’t you rather go into a place where everybody hates you? And then you get to have a chance to defeat them and make everybody in there quiet.”
— Ramon Humber didn’t stick in New England after signing with the Patriots in March 2016, but he’s found a nice niche in Buffalo.
After primarily playing on special teams for the Bills in 2016, Humber has started every game at linebacker this season, ranking third on the team in tackles with 64 and second in tackles for loss with six.
“Any time a guy that’s been in the league as long as Ramon has and hasn’t had, really, the opportunity to play from a line-of-scrimmage standpoint the way Ramon has, I think that’s one of the feel-good stories of our team,” Bills coach Sean McDermott said in a conference call. “In addition to that, I like Ramon just from the standpoint that he’s mentally tough, he kind of embraces the underdog role, and he’s got a little bit of an edge to him, which helps when you play on the defense.”
— Speaking of ex-Pats, cornerback Leonard Johnson now plays for the Bills. For those who don’t remember, here was his most memorable contribution to the Patriots:
— Backup quarterback Brian Hoyer was one of five Patriots players to earn practice player of the week honors for last week. Hoyer filled in for an injured Tom Brady at last Wednesday’s practice and did so again this Wednesday.
— Offensive tackle Nate Solder showed off the specially painted footwear he’ll be wearing for “My Cause, My Cleats” on Sunday.
Solder’s cleats feature drawing of his son, Hudson, who suffers from a rare form of pediatric cancer, and the words “Tough like my daddy.”
“People were saying I should have it say, ‘Tough like my son,’ ” Solder said, “because he’s far tougher than me.”
See more of the Patriots’ “My Cause, My Cleats” offerings, including head coach Bill Belichick’s, right here.
— Fashion statement of the day: Rob Gronkowski walked out of the Patriots’ locker room wearing gym shorts, slippers and a massive, fur-lined Canada Goose jacket.
“It’s fresh,” he said with a smile.
Thumbnail photo via Kevin Hoffman/USA TODAY Sports Images