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Examining the roster ties between Patriots, Bills

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When the Buffalo Bills venture to Foxborough Sunday, six onetime New England Patriots will follow suit.

When the Buffalo Bills venture to Foxborough on Sunday, six onetime New England Patriots will follow suit.

That number would stand at seven if including members of the coaching staff, as Bills assistant head coach Rob Ryan spent four seasons working with the Patriots’ linebackers and donned an excellent mullet along the way.

But, as far as the players go, Buffalo’s 53-man roster currently carries two former New England draft picks, one free-agent signing, as well as three others who were once acquired via trade by Bill Belichick and Co.

And on the Patriots’ active roster reside two ex-Bills, while a third resides on the practice squad.

Leading up to the 1 p.m. ET kickoff at Gillette Stadium, here’s a glance through those familiar nine.

BUFFALO

Greg Salas, wide receiver – The then-St. Louis Rams sent Salas to New England in September of 2012, receiving what would become a 2015 seventh-round pick in exchange. Salas’ time as a Patriot would conclude well before then, however. He was released by the Patriots three weeks into his tenure with the team, later re-signing to the practice squad and getting called back up to the 53 in November. The Philadelphia Eagles ultimately claimed the Hawaii product off waivers in the days that followed. Salas appeared in one game for New England. He has been ruled out for Sunday.

Brandon Tate, wide receiver – Tate would go on to spend two seasons with the Patriots after being picked No. 83 overall in the 2009 draft. The North Carolina Tar Heel appeared in a total of 18 games over that stretch, catching 24 passes for 432 yards and three touchdowns while serving primarily as a return man. Tate collected 1,163 yards and two scores on 45 kickoff returns as a member of the Patriots, prior to his release in September of 2011.

Ryan Groy, guard – The Patriots sent linebacker Matthew Wells, then a sixth-round rookie, to the Chicago Bears in exchange for Groy in August of 2015. But neither went on to make the final cuts that September, with Wells waived and Groy passing through to injured reserve before being released with a settlement.

Jerel Worthy, defensive end – Midway through the 2014 preseason, the Green Bay Packers shipped Worthy to New England in return for a conditional 2015 late-round draft choice. But after two-and-a-half weeks, the Patriots parted ways with the former second-rounder out of Michigan State. Worthy has since found a home in Buffalo after signing to the practice squad late last season.

Brandon Spikes, linebacker – Spikes’ first go-round in Foxborough lasted four years, and it saw the 2010 second-round pick out of Florida accrue 286 tackles, one sack, 12 pass deflections, two interceptions and five forced fumbles over 51 games. But his second lasted less than a month. Spikes, released by the Patriots in June of 2015, pleaded guilty to three counts of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in personal injury that July. He spent the season out of football before garnering a second stint with the Bills.

Ramon Humber, linebacker – Humber, a veteran of eight NFL seasons, was the first Patriots signing of the 2016 league year. But on Aug. 30, the reserve linebacker and special-teamer was released by New England. The Bills signed Humber one day later.

NEW ENGLAND

Chris Hogan, wide receiver – The first regular-season game of Hogan’s NFL career was logged against the Patriots. His first touchdown catch and his highest yardage output were as well. And after playing in six games to reel in 13 passes for 181 yards along with that TD against the AFC East rival, Hogan now finds himself playing for them. After having joined the Patriots via restricted free agency in March, Sunday will mark the 27-year-old’s initial encounter against his old club.

Alan Branch, defensive tackle – The 10-year veteran spent 2013 with the Bills, starting 13 of 16 appearances and earning a contract extension by campaign’s end. Though following a DUI arrest, Branch was released by the Bills as his second year in Orchard Park was set to get underway. The Patriots later signed Branch that October, and he’s started 20 regular-season contests along the interior since then.

Glenn Gronkowski, fullback – Another Gronkowski joined the mix on Saturday, as the Patriots signed Rob’s youngest brother, Glenn, to the practice squad. The former Kansas State fullback originally signed with his hometown Bills as an undrafted rookie in the spring, and proceeded to crack Buffalo’s initial 53 before being waived on Sept. 12. The Patriots had Gronkowski in for a free-agent workout one week later.