FOXBOROUGH, MASS. >> The Patriots welcome back Tom Brady from his "Deflategate" suspension in less than a week.
In the meantime, they have just a few days left to get Jimmy Garoppolo's shoulder, Jacoby Brissett's thumb, or emergency quarterback Julian Edelman ready to play against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
It's the question of the week in New England. And Walt Patulski — a new alter ego for Rex Ryan — was in search of answers on Wednesday.
During a teleconference with Edelman and Buffalo reporters, Ryan hopped on the line and introduced himself as a reporter named "Walt Patulski," who in reality was the Bills' No. 1 pick in the 1972 draft.
"Are you playing quarterback this week?" Ryan asked Edelman.
"Well, I'm going to do whatever the coach asks me to do," Edelman said. "If they ask me to go out and give a glass of water to some of them on the sideline, I'm going to do that with a smile on my face if it helps our team win. You could ask coach that one."
"All right, Julian, I will buddy," said a giggling Ryan.
"All right, Walt," the Patriots receiver replied, with a tone suggesting that he might have figured out he was being trolled.
Ryan said in a radio interview earlier this week that he had an inkling of who New England would start at quarterback.
Following his sleuthing on Wednesday, he stuck to that claim.
"I still do. Yep, I sure do," said Ryan, who enters Sunday with just a 4-11 coaching record against the Patriots.
Back in New England, both Garoppolo and Brissett practiced for the second straight day.
Garoppolo said before the workout that this is the first time he's dealt with an AC joint sprain in his shoulder, but added that he isn't concerned with the prospect of potentially having to play through an injury.
"It's just football," he said. "I think everybody in this locker room is doing that."
Brissett said when he injured his thumb last week against Houston it didn't affect his grip on the ball. But he also couldn't recall a time when he's had to deal with a similar ailment.
He said the main thing he's tried to do is not focus on it.
"Just something I deal with," Brissett said. "Whatever happens just happens and whatever coach wants me to do, I'll do."
Still, there's also no ignoring the future Hall of Famer that will soon be back in New England.
And Garoppolo acknowledged that there may be some increased urgency knowing this could be his final opportunity to start with Brady coming back next week.
"You always want to be out there," he said. "It's part of football, part of being a competitor. You want to be there guy out there and be the one running the show."
The uncertainty would seem to make things that much harder for the Bills, who could potentially see three different offensive looks depending on who plays.
Garoppolo is more of a traditional drop back passer, Brissett brings and increased run threat, and Edelman was an option quarterback in college.
Edelman has spent his entire pro career at receiver, but did throw a 51-yard pass to Danny Amendola in a 2014 playoff win over Baltimore.
Ryan insisted that even with variables to account for, he isn't worried about over preparing for one guy or coming in with the wrong game plan.
"You're gonna prepare, but you're not going to spend your whole practice time on a 'what if?"' Ryan said. "But each week you gotta be prepared for that."