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'It's a Family': How Does Xavier Rhodes' Familiarity Help Move to Bills?

Newly-minted Buffalo Bill Xavier Rhodes was drawn to Western New York thanks to several prior connections established in his NFL career.

Even with their perfect record no more, things continue to fall in the Buffalo Bills' favor. A plethora of injuries, for example, has given way to an All-Pro defender. 

Xavier Rhodes is the newest member of the Bills, whose daily injury reports are starting to resemble starting lineups. With the secondary particularly banged up (Christian Benford, Dane Jackson, Jordan Poyer among this week's entrants), the Bills turned to sources beyond Orchard Park for assistance. That yielded Rhodes, a three-time Pro Bowler that previously worked with Minnesota (2013-19) and Indianapolis (2020-21). 

"(He's) an experienced player. He’s played a lot of football. Ball production. Smart, veteran player,” Bills head coach Sean McDermott said of Rhodes. "(He) came in the other day and did a good job and we’re looking forward to seeing him on the field.”

Perhaps true to Buffalo's relatively cursed recent fortunes, Rhodes' debut will have to wait: a hamstring issue will keep him out of Sunday's Week 4 visit to Baltimore (1 p.m. ET, CBS). But it should take the Florida State alum little, if any, time to get adjusted to the Bills' defense.

Rhodes, 32, is already aware of what this iteration of the team is capable, having witnessed its first playoff win in January 2021 when they topped his Colts in the AFC Wild Card playoffs. Personal ties, however, appear all over the Buffalo ledgers, ones that should ensure a smooth transition when he's ready to reignite. 

For example, Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier oversaw Rhodes' rise to power in Minnesota, which included his aforementioned All-Pro affairs in 2017. He also often works out with new teammate and fellow All-Pro nominee Poyer during the offseason and previously united with Frazier and current backup quarterback Case Keenum to guide the Vikings to the NFC title game in 2017-18. Poyer, for his part, reportedly tried to lure Rhodes to Buffalo as early as last season, but the latter opted for another season with the Colts instead. 

Rhodes was never considering retirement, remarking to the team site that he was "stay(ing) ready" and "waiting on the call" from Buffalo or its 31 brothers. The familiarity that Bills provided without playing a single down might've been a fateful selling point in terms of choosing his NFL career's next destination. 

"Having a relationship with (Frazier) and having relationships with a lot of other guys here, helped it also. Basically, they wanted me to be here for my presence for the guys that went down," Rhodes said. "It's a great thing because it's not something you have to start anew. You have someone you know that knows you, knows your ins and outs. It was a great feeling."

Familiarity and continuity have been critical for the Bills (2-1) as they've become one of the lords of the AFC in this new decade: in a world of constant gridiron roster turnover, Josh Allen, Gabriel Davis, Stefon Diggs, Matt Milano, and many others linger from that 2020-21 group that topped Indianapolis 27-24 en route to the AFC title game. More recently, Rhodes earned a quantum of revenge, notably tipping an Allen pass that landed in the hands of Kenny Moore when Indianapolis bestowed a 41-15 shellacking in a visit to Orchard Park last season. 

But with the Bills forced to turn to the waiver wire, roster uncertainty could certainly derail any Super Bowl dreams. Rhodes' personal ties, as well as his already renowned talents, could help keep them on that relative pace. 

"These guys, it's just a family and once you have family on a team, the sky's the limit," Rhodes said. "With the communication that goes on when I first got here with the defense and the communication with offense, I've been around a defense and offense like that before, so to see that, I know that the sky's the limit."

Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffJMags

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