This week, Bills head coach Rex Ryan said it would take King Kong to cover Rob Gronkowski. New England's All-Pro tight end had a ready-made punchline on Thursday.
"Like I said, I've got to prepare for everyone," Gronkowski chuckled, clearly accepting the compliment as a sign of respect.
"I have a lot of respect for them, too, and him as a coach," added Gronkowski. "He's a great coach and always has his defense ready, always has great players playing hard for him, too. It's going to be a challenge and I'm super excited for the game."
If history is our guide, Gronk should be excited for this game because he normally puts up huge numbers versus the team he rooted for as a kid. Gronkowski grew up just outside the city.
"I always enjoy going back," he continued. "It's always great to play in front of your friends, your family. It's an honor and always a great experience to go back. I think a lot of my friends are still Bills fans, actually."
Ticket requests are usually pretty high for Gronkowski for this game, but he joked that it might not be this time around.
"No, if they're still Bills fans, they can go get their own," Gronk laughed.
Sunday's game will also be a homecoming of sorts for Gronkowski's fellow veteran tight end Scott Chandler, who spent the past four-and-a-half seasons as a Buffalo Bill. He wasn't in a mood to reflect much on his days in Western New York, however.
"That's something that maybe when I'm done playing I'll think about more. Right now," Chandler maintained, "I'm just focused on doing what I can do to help the Patriots win on Sunday. I'm trying to approach it like any other week. I'm really excited to be here in New England. Just going about my business, doing my job."
Chandler might be the best-prepared Patriot on offense, given his considerable experience working against the Bills defense in practice, particularly Buffalo's stout defensive line.
"It all starts with those guys up front. Good players, guys who have been around for a while, and really do a god job. The other guys fly around. They've got a great core group there and those guys are playing well.
"Those guys are good players," emphasized Chandler. "They've been doing it for a long time and they do it well. The [defensive] ends can rush and the defensive tackles can make it tough on the guys inside, too, so we're going to have to do a good job handling those guys."
New England will also have to handle the crowd at Ralph Wilson Stadium, which is hoping to set a new record for loudest NFL stadium crowd. Representatives for the Guinness Book of World Records will be in attendance to record the decibel levels on Sunday.
Coincidentally, the Bills are trying to break the record set last September by the Kansas City Chiefs, who established the current record against the Patriots on Monday Night Football.
"It's super loud," said Gronkowski, who recalled attending games there as a youth. "I remember a couple times the past few years, I mean that stadium gets super loud. We've got to be prepared and we've got to be ready, but that's what makes the whole atmosphere and what's so great about the game – especially on the road, going back to where I grew up in Buffalo. Just super loud. It makes it super exciting and it just makes the atmosphere of the game of football great."
"Yeah, those fans want something to cheer for," added Chandler. "They get loud when they get going. That's going to be something that we're prepared for and we're going to have to handle it well on Sunday."
Taylor-made game plan
Defensively, the Patriots' challenge will start with trying to learn as much as they can about Buffalo's new starting quarterback. Vetearn Tyrod Taylor was formerly a backup with Baltimore and has very little NFL game film that opponents can study.
"We find every bit of film you can find," safety/co-captain Devin McCourty. "Seeing him in games he played in Baltimore, then seeing him a lot in the preseason and obviously in the first game, he can throw every pass on the field. He has a strong arm, and I think obviously the thing that sticks out to everybody is his athleticism – being able to escape the pocket, even some planned runs.
"Kind of what they did in San Fran with [Colin] Kaepernick. He's a tough guy to prepare for just because he can do so many different things on the field, and I think we have to recognize and realize that challenge and be ready to stop the different things he can do well."
"You look at guys who kind of remind you of him," echoed cornerback Tarell Brown. "You kind of look at the coordinator and see what he likes to do. We understand that he wants to get the ball out quick and put it in his playmakers' hands. We have to do a great job of being fundamentally sound, make sure we play gap football, and protect those cutback lanes."
Taylor has the ability to scramble as well as throw, as Brown acknowledged. The solution for the defense?
"Sound football. Because if you come up too fast, he can throw it over your head," Brown observed. "He has a strong arm, smart quarterback, now he's getting his opportunity… We definitely have our hands full."
The Patriots continue tinkering with their depth at wide receiver. Wednesday evening, the club reportedly sent a fifth-round draft choice to the Houston Texans for wideout Keshawn Martin and a sixth-round Texans draft pick. Martin, however, was not at practice Thursday, and in order to accommodate him on the roster, the Patriots would have had to part with someone currently on the 53. Fifty-two of them were on the field, with the only absentee being injured d-lineman Dominique Easley (left hip). If Easley were placed on injured reserve, that would free up a space, but his injury is not thought to be season-threatening.
According to media reports, the trade for Martin was pending a successful physical. As of early this afternoon, that appeared not to have happened yet.
However, there was still one available spot on the New England practice squad, which the club filled by re-signing rookie WR Chris Harper.