For five years, Sam Aikenwas a Buffalo Bill, in much the same role he has now in New England – reserve wide receiver and special teams regular.
The difference now is that Aiken is a Patriots captain representing the special teams unit and has started to emerge as New England's third receiver in an offense that typically employs three wides.
This weekend, when the Patriots travel to Buffalo, Aiken hopes to have a chance to neutralize the Bills special teams, always a strength of Buffalo.
"Yeah, it is. It's something they harp on. As you see, year in and year out, they're always at the top of the special teams rankings," Aiken observed.
So, what can the Patriots do to counter the Bills in that department?
"Just take away their main guys, stay disciplined, and just keep the edge," he replied.
Aiken says it has helped him in his current leadership role that he spent so much time as a member of the Bills special teams.
"I would say a lot, especially as far as a lot of little, small technique coaching points, [such as] getting beat on the block, and how to come and recover – stuff like that. It meant a lot."
What's more, he tries to impart what he's learned to his New England teammates.
"I try to if there's something that comes up," said Aiken. "There are more and more guys that are coming along as we meet together day in and day out that eventually they come to know it.
"I'm happy, but we can be inconsistent at times. But when we do turn it on, you do see the difference."
Springs offers perspective
Having suffered the loss of a teammate during a football season, cornerback Shawn Springswas asked by reporters today for his reaction to the death of Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry.
Springs, who was with the Washington Redskins when safey Sean Taylorwas killed in 2007, explained how he and his teammates dealt with the tragedy while having to focus simultaneously on their jobs on the field.
"We were struggling," Springs began, "but I think it brought us closer together as a team. I think just everybody started appreciating each other more. Although we play a sport, sometimes we take it for granted how lucky we are and how fortunate we are to be in the position we're in. So guys started saying 'I love you, man' and started appreciating each other more. The whole organization came together and we kept fighting.
"A lot of times that was difficult. One of the toughest things for us was when we played Buffalo that next week. We came on the field with 10 men and left a space open for Sean. I don't know if you all remember seeing that, but that was unbelievable."
As far as getting back to work so quickly, Springs said he and the Redskins kept telling themselves that their fallen teammate would have wanted nothing less from them.
"In our case, we just thought about what Sean represented, and the type of player that he was and what he would've wanted us to do. A lot of guys just took it upon themselves to just do it like Sean would do it. He was always talented. He was always a hard worker, very competitive. He played every game like it was his last and we just kind of took on that attitude.
"All I can say," Springs concluded, "is that I feel for Chris Henry's family, and fiancée and the team … I know early in his career he had some troubles and things like that, but he seemed to be doing well this year."
Thursday locker room/practice notes
QB Tom Bradyand WR Randy Mosswere back on the field for practice today, after missing Wednesday's workout. However, DLs Ty Warrenand Vince Wilforkwere out of action for the second straight day. RB Fred Tayloralso wasn't present for today's workout after taking part Wednesday.
The Patriots practiced on the Gillette Stadium game surface in frigid temperatures, similar conditions to what they're expected to face in Buffalo on Sunday. The team again donned shells and sweats.