The Patriots activated cornerback Aqib Talib and promoted receiver Greg Salas from the practice squad for Sunday’s game against the Colts, and to make room on the roster, they released veteran receiver Deion Branch and defensive back Malcolm Williams.
Released by the Patriots out of training camp, Branch was re-signed Sept. 19 and had played in all seven games since then, with nine receptions for 80 yards. He had a season-high four catches against Buffalo last week.
Because it is after the trade deadline, Branch can be claimed by any team on waivers.
Talib was acquired from Tampa Bay Nov. 1, but only joined the team Monday after serving a four-game NFL suspension for performance-enhancing substances.
Salas also came to New England via trade, after playing for St. Louis as a rookie last year. He was on the 53-man roster for the first two games of the season but has been on the practice squad since. However, Salas was making $465,001 as a member of the practice squad, a sign that the Patriots wanted to keep him around (most practice squad players make $96,900 for a full season).
Williams, a special teamer, was a seventh-round pick of the Patriots last year; he was promoted off the practice squad Oct. 27 but was inactive last week against the Bills.
Butler comes back
Darius Butler comes into Gillette Stadium Sunday fresh off the game of his career 10 days earlier, when he had two interceptions and a fumble recovery for the Colts in their win over Jacksonville.
Butler was a second-round pick of the Patriots in 2009, after a college career at the University of Connecticut. Bill Belichick conducted Butler’s pro day workout, and clearly liked what he saw.
Though Butler played in 29 of 32 games in his first two seasons with New England, the team surprisingly cut ties with him during training camp last year. Carolina claimed Butler off waivers, and he played 13 games with six starts for the Panthers.
But when he suffered a concussion in the preseason this year, he was first placed on injured reserve and then reached an injury settlement with Carolina, which waived him.
Indianapolis signed him Sept. 25. He was active for his first two games with the team, inactive for the next two, and then back on the field Nov. 4 against Miami. Four days later, with the secondary thinned by injuries, he got the chance to start, and took full advantage against the Jaguars.
His three turnovers — one of the interceptions was returned for a touchdown — matched the total the Colts had forced in the first eight games. Butler was named AFC Defensive Player of the Week.
Butler will start again Sunday, against the team that threw in the towel on him too quickly.
“Obviously it’s a big game, especially in our conference,” said Butler. “Definitely it means a little bit more to get back up there and have the opportunity to play against my old team, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Wilson on report
The Patriots added rookie safety Tavon Wilson to their injury report with an ankle injury and listed him as probable. Wilson is the 20th player on the Patriots report. Of the notables on the list, Logan Mankins (ankle/calf) did not practice all week and is unlikely to play. Aaron Hernandez (ankle), who practiced all week, as he did last week, is listed as questionable but will not play. New England is holding him back for Thursday’s game against the Jets at MetLife Stadium.