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Gronk 'pumped' to play in hometown

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- For Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who grew up in Williamsville, New York (a town outside of Buffalo), Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills is more than just another homecoming. It will be an intense battle between two AFC East teams seeking sole possession of first place in the division.

Gronkowski knows the stakes are high.

“Divisional games are huge. Very big. It’s the division,” Gronkowski said. “You want to get that win whenever you play a division team. It’s going to be a great atmosphere going into Buffalo. Both 3-2. Both playing for our division to be in front. So it’s going to be a really big game.”

Six days after an embarrassing loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night football, the Patriots displayed a heightened level of intensity in Sunday night’s 43-17 win over the Cincinnati Bengals on national television. Gronkowski wants the team to carry that intensity into Bufffalo.

“Every game is intense,” Gronkowski said. “We’ve been in many intense situations, too, on the road with the fans and everything. So just have to go out there, stick together as a team and play together, have some chemistry and execute together.”

While Gronkowski is focused on the team and picking up a win to give the Patriots some separation at the top of the division standings, he is excited to take a trip back to his hometown.

“It’s always good going back to your hometown in front of your friends and family,” Gronkowski said. “So definitely exciting. I’m pumped up for the game on Sunday.

“I know a lot people in Buffalo growing up that go to the games, so I’m sure there will be plenty of them there,” he added.

Another homecoming for Gronkowski and the Patriots will be the reunion with former Patriots linebacker and current Bills captain Brandon Spikes. Spikes is a force when it comes to stopping the run, and Gronkowski is aware of his tendency to land big hits.

“[Spikes] is a good player,” Gronkowski said. “You have to be aware of him. He’s a hitter, so you have to be prepared, and mentally and physically ready.”

Gronkowski, who has been a full participant at practice since Oct. 3, is officially off of the Patriots’ injury report, which says something about the progress he has made with his knee.

When asked about coming off of the injury report, Gronkowski said, “always a great sign.”