Patriots anticipating never-before-seen atmosphere in Buffalo

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Perry: Pats anticipating never-before-seen atmosphere in Buffalo originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

FOXBORO -- Matthew Slater has played in Buffalo once a year, at least, for 15 years. He's seen good Bills teams and bad. He's been to Super Bowls. He's played in front of empty stadiums during a pandemic, and was there when fans returned. He's seen just about everything there is to see when it comes to a game-day atmosphere.

But Slater said on Thursday that what he and his teammates are expecting to see in Buffalo this weekend will be different when the Bills take the field for the first time since Damar Hamlin collapsed on Monday Night Football.

“I expect it to be something that I’ve never experienced before,” Slater said. “You’re hoping that -- and I say this with all honesty -- you’re hoping that by the time we get to the game, it’s a little bit more of a joyous one where they’ve got some better news on Damar, and I think we’ll all feel better about it. I know our team will feel better about it and have a little bit more peace. I’m sure you guys covering it will feel better about it if we have some good news on him.

"I’m sure it’ll be something that none of us have ever really experienced. We’ll cross that road when we get to it. In the meantime, we’ll just continue to pray that the Lord is with Damar and he continues to improve."

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Both Bills quarterback Josh Allen and coach Sean McDermott explained that they'd be ready for a game come Sunday. It's been communicated to them through Hamlin's family that what he would want is for the Bills to take the field as scheduled.

"You can't not honor his request," Allen said, "to go out there and charge forward to the best of our abilities."

They will be a motivated group. It will be an emotional stadium. It will be, safe to say, a challenging place to operate for the Patriots.

Are they facing down a "freight train," Mac Jones was asked?

"It's all about Damar and his family," Jones said. "Him being on their team, that's a lot of motivation just to play for him. I mean we're all playing for him, right? We all want to be out there and compete. And that's what he does when he's out there. He's all over the tape, you see him making plays. It's just tough to see that he's hurt so bad.

"But at the end of the day we've got to go out there and compete and just honor him on both sides of the ball. We obviously have respect for the Bills and everything they've been through this past week. It's really tough, obviously. We're not in their situation, but we're all in this together. It's really important to realize football is a game that brings people together.

"I think this is a great example of not only bringing our team together but the whole league, the whole world, really, the whole nation. It's a really tough time but you can see all the support for him and his family. Just really hope that he continues to get better."

The game was still several days away on Thursday, but the Patriots were thinking ahead to the kind of energy they'll encounter in Orchard Park at Highmark Stadium.

"It's still tough thinking about that situation, thinking about the environment that we're going to go into Sunday," Devin McCourty said. "We're the team that has to go play in Buffalo this week after I'm sure just a roller coaster of emotions for them. I'm sure they're still dealing with so many different things."