FOXBORO — For the fourth time this season, the Patriots have released defensive back Marquice Cole from their roster.

The Patriots returned to the practice field Thursday outside Gillette Stadium and there was one more name on the injury report. Rob Ninkovich showed up for the first time this week with an injured ankle suffered in the Patriots’ win in Baltimore Sunday.

FOXBORO — Stevan Ridley had politely declined to speak about his Dec. 1 benching for the last several weeks. On Thursday, the third-year running back felt it was finally time to open up.

FOXBORO — Devin McCourty and Josh Boyce were the only two Patriots players not in attendance Thursday as the Patriots returned to the practice field after having Christmas Day off. Both players also missed the light walkthrough inside Dana Farber Field House on Tuesday before getting the holiday off on Wednesday.

Both players were projected as not participating Wednesday if the team had held a practice. The Patriots were required to issue the report per NFL guidelines.

According to reports, Ed Hochuli will work as the referee for Sunday’s Bills-Patriots game.

Hochuli, known for his physique — as well as his occasional tendency to over explain a penalty — will be working his first New England game of the season. He was last on a Patriots game last year when New England met San Francisco at Gillette Stadium.

There was no practice for the Patriots on Wednesday, but per league rules, they were still required to issue a simulated practice report.

Much more than lip service, Bill Belichick said on Christmas Eve that he is in no way taking the 6-9 Bills lightly when they come calling this Sunday at Gillette Stadium.

There’s good reason for that, too.

Safety Devin McCourty and wide receiver Josh Boyce were missing from a Tuesday morning walk-through at the Dana-Farber Field House, according to reports. McCourty left Sunday’s game against the Ravens in the second half after suffering a head injury, while Boyce is dealing with the effects of an ankle injury he suffered in a loss to the Dolphins earlier this month.

One of the keys to the Patriots’ 41-7 win over the Ravens on Sunday was an ability to convert in the red zone. New England — which has seen some of its red-zone numbers slip in recent weeks, including a 1-for-4 performance the week before against the Dolphins — was 3-for-3 on red-zone touchdown chances.

FOXBORO — Kyle Arrington called it throwing the first punch.