Marcell Dareus returns to square off with Tom Brady, New England Patriots on Sunday

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Defensive tackle Marcell Dareus will make his 2015 debut for the Buffalo Bills on Sunday afternoon – and just in time, too. The Bills host AFC East rival New England at noon CDT in their second game of the NFL season.

Dareus missed Buffalo’s season-opener – a 27-14 victory over the Indianapolis Colts last week – because of an NFL-imposed suspension. The former Alabama standout returned to practice on Monday for a week of digs at the Patriots from Buffalo coach Rex Ryan, teammates and even the Bills’ gift shop, which put football air pumps on sale to needle New England about Deflategate.

“Don’t nobody like the Patriots,” Dareus said. “Let’s just be honest about it.”

But Dareus didn’t offer that unprompted. He’d been asked about Buffalo safety Aaron Williams’ comments.

“I don’t like New England, so, yeah, it’s definitely personal for me,” Williams said. “Me saying that may run a lot of stories. But that’s just the way I feel. They’re a great football team. Don’t get that twisted at all. They wouldn’t be the four-time NFL champs for no reason. … Just the way they carry themselves on the field and stuff. All the stuff that has happened to me in the past with some of the players has definitely gone through the roof for me. That’s a reason it’s personal for me. And they’re our rival, so it’s not just personal. It’s about the Buffalo Bills’ history.”

While Dareus might not like the Patriots, he said he likes playing the defending Super Bowl champs.

“I like playing against (quarterback) Tom Brady and the Pats,” Dareus said. “We all get up to play against those guys. … I like playing against him. I like that competition, and he’s a good guy. He brings a lot to the game.”

Standing in the Bills’ indoor practice facility talking to reporters last week, the All-Pro seemed as though he might choke up for a moment when asked about having to watch the season-opening game from home.

“I’m just so excited to be with these guys,” the former Huffman High School star said. “Last week just really took a lot out of me not being here.”

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Dareus’ suspension stemmed from a traffic stop on May 5, 2014. Dareus was pulled over by a State Trooper for speeding on Interstate 20 in Cleburne County. Subsequently, he was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. The Alabama Department of Public Safety said the substance was “spice,” or synthetic cannabis.

In July 2014, Dareus was allowed to enter a pretrial intervention program for charges stemming from the traffic stop. The program included participation in the NFL’s substance-abuse program. At the time, Dareus’ attorney, Rod Giddens of Sylacauga, said the case could be dismissed and the records of the arrest could be expunged if Dareus successfully completed the intervention program, which included random drug tests at least 10 times a month.

Dareus said the suspension served as another reminder to keep his life on the right track.

“I’m happy I’ve turned my life around and really just kind of put my best foot forward,” Dareus said. “I know I’m young and stuff happens, but I’m just happy to know I’m making the right decisions.”

Dareus’ return from suspension will allow him to draw his first paycheck under his new contract. Dareus signed a six-year contract extension worth $96.1 million just before the season started. Dareus was entering the final season of his contract with the Bills. Including this season, Buffalo would pay Dareus $104.16 million if he plays through 2021, the final season of his new contract.

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New England coach Bill Belichick made Dareus sound as though he’s worth every penny when talking with reporters last week.

“He’s very athletic. Good quickness. Good playing strength,” Belichick said. “He’s a smart player, too. He’s instinctive. He makes a lot of plays on reading blocks, anticipating blocks or anticipating a certain set or that type of thing. He has it all. He’s big. He’s strong. He’s explosive. He’s powerful. He runs well. He’s athletic. He has good balance. Good quickness and he’s a smart player. So put it all together and that’s why he’s one of the best players in the league.”

Maybe that’s why his teammates call him “Mr. Big Stuff.”

Dareus said he’s happy to have a long-term commitment in Buffalo.

“Playing at Alabama, where we have amazing, great fans, this is the closest that I could imagine it being,” Dareus said. “I love the fans here. I’m a Buffalonian now. I’ve got thick blood. I don’t get cold easy.”Marcell Dareus, Buffalo Bills, Bill Belichick, NFL 2015, sports

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