ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) – Wearing a Yankees cap and Buffalo Bills shirt, Lawyer Milloy has shed his Beantown past.

All that remains are the questions that come from the media, at times like this, when the Bills prepare for today’s game against the New England Patriots, the veteran safety’s former team.

It’s been two years since Milloy joined the Bills after the Patriots cut him days before the start of the 2003 season. And yet, the 10-year NFL veteran is still dogged by questions, in part because the two-time defending Super Bowl champion Patriots continue winning without him and the Bills are still struggling.

“The only way I get passed that is by helping this team be successful,” Milloy said this week. “My experiences there for seven years are definitely unforgettable for myself and my family. But I’m trying to create memories for myself here in Orchard Park.”

To show how much he’s trying, Milloy holds out his right hand, the one with the broken thumb that hasn’t prevented him from missing a game this season.

“You look at my hand,” Milloy said. “I’m a Bill.”

Milloy was asked to make the key motivational speech during the weekly team meeting leading up to the New England game. If the Bills (3-4) are going to make something out of this season and snap a five-year playoff drought, it has to start against the division-rival Patriots (3-3).

Like Milloy, Buffalo has its own ghosts to overcome against New England, a team that has won three straight and eight of its last nine meetings against the Bills.

“I’d be sitting here and lying if I said I wasn’t pumped up,” Milloy said. “It’s a place where we haven’t been successful in the last couple of years. And I think we have to get through the mystique of the whole situation, the atmosphere, the banners, the fact that they’re the world champions.

“We have to put our blinders on,” he said.

Milloy, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, has been hampered by injuries in Buffalo.

He missed the first five games of last season with a broken forearm. Upon his return, Buffalo rallied from a 1-4 start to finish 9-7.

This season, Milloy broke his thumb against Tampa Bay in Week 2 but has barely missed a down while leading the team with 67 tackles. Bills free safety Troy Vincent ranks Milloy among the top safeties he’s played with, and that includes Philadelphia’s Brian Dawkins.

“He’s not afraid to let you know his feelings. Just to play with him reminds me so much of Brian Dawkins in terms of the passion he brings to the game,” Vincent said. “Watching him from afar before and now having the opportunity to play alongside him has been one of the highlights of my career.”

Milloy’s strong performance this season hasn’t been enough for a defense that’s proven porous against the run and missing its top player, linebacker Takeo Spikes, out for the season with a torn Achilles’ tendon.

Milloy is unhappy with the defense’s performance, especially after it couldn’t make a key stop in allowing a season-worst 416 yards in a 38-17 loss at Oakland last week.

“It’s definitely not good enough,” Milloy said. “I don’t know if it’s a lack of focus or whatever. … But as bad as that game was last week, we have an opportunity to accomplish everything we want to going into the break.”

The Bills enter their bye after the New England game.

Meanwhile, what stings Milloy the most is how he parted ways with the Patriots, cut because of his hefty contract. It didn’t seem to matter to New England that Milloy was one if its leaders, had started 106 consecutive games, enjoyed five seasons with 100 or more tackles and helped the Patriots win the Super Bowl in 2002.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick then questioned Milloy’s attitude, referring to him as a “selfish” and “negative leader sometimes,” in a book published last year.

“I didn’t read the book,” Milloy said. “I have the memories. I’ve moved on.”

And yet, he couldn’t stop from defending himself by taking a poke at Belichick.

“If I’m a selfish leader, he should’ve let me go in the offseason instead of the Monday before the opening game,” Milloy said.

AP-ES-10-27-05 1549EDT

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