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Bills add Pepper Johnson to D staff

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Buffalo Bills coach Doug Marrone has added another notable assistant to his staff.

The Bills have hired longtime New England Patriots defensive assistant Pepper Johnson, who left the defending AFC East champs this month after 14 years under Bill Belichick.

The Bills have been rebuilding their defensive staff since coordinator Mike Pettine filled the Cleveland Browns' head vacancy last week. It's not yet known what position group Johnson will coach under new Bills coordinator Jim Schwartz.

There are reports this evening the Bills also added former Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator Fred Pagac, although the Buffalo News has not been able to independently confirm Pagac.

Johnson struck out on his own after being passed over for Patriots coordinator openings over the years. He coached their inside linebackers from 2001 through 2003, the defensive line from 2004 through 2011 and linebackers the past two seasons.

"Of all the people I coached or worked with, nobody has more passion and love for the game than Pepper," Belichick said in a statement when Johnson departed. "His energy and wisdom for football knows no limits. Pepper made me a better coach and person and helped create some of the greatest moments of my career."

Johnson has won five Super Bowl rings as a player and coach. The two-time Pro Bowler played linebacker for the New York Giants, Browns, Detroit Lions and New York Jets.

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About the reporters

Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.