Pats back at work, focus on Bills

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- After a bye week, the Patriots were back at Gillette Stadium on Tuesday to begin preparations for the Buffalo Bills, who the team will host on Sunday.

Passing along some sites and sounds from the open locker room session Tuesday morning:

Bills a focus. Special-teams captain Matthew Slater deferred answers on questions about new cornerback Aqib Talib (more on that later) and echoed the team's focus on the Bills.

"These guys always give us a fight," he said of the Bills. "We know we're going to be in for a fight. Our focus is on Buffalo, with the guys that we have here this week, and we're going to do our best to prepare, have a good week, and hopefully have some success on Sunday."

Teammate Deion Branch says the task of taking on the Bills isn't any easier because of the fact that his team is playing a familiar opponent and coming off of its bye.

"No you can't say that," Branch said. "I think every game is different, every situation is totally different. We know what we have at task. What's in front of us right now is a big division game, and we both know each other. The thing is, they've been playing. We've got to get back in the groove of things."

Talib talk. Tuesday marked the first time we've been able to speak to the players since the acquisition of cornerback Aqib Talib at the trade deadline. While some players declined to comment, others offered some insight.

"He's a great player," said Branch, who himself has twice been traded in his career. "I don't know if we'll use him the same way that they used him. It's just all about what happens once he's here."

Branch was asked about making the transition from one team to another in the middle of the season (which he did when he was re-acquired by the Patriots in 2010).

"It wasn't that bad. It wasn't that bad," he said. "Just because of the surroundings, the environment I was put in. I think you've got a bunch of guys who open their arms up to each and every individual that gets traded here. I think that's a credit to the players that are in the locker room."

As for whether the trade sent a message, defensive end Rob Ninkovich offered, "We're trying to improve and whatever we do here [is] to try to win," he said. "So obviously we're just moving forward and trying to win more games."

Cole wears the belt. The Patriots denote their practice players of the week with black jerseys, but one player earns particular recognition for his standout practice work by holding on to a "championship belt" (such as those seen in professional wrestling). This week, the belt has found a home in defensive back Marquice Cole's locker.