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Patriots add TE Visanthe Shiancoe

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, who on Sept. 5 was placed on injured reserve with the designation to return, was activated and added to the team's 53-man roster Saturday.

Tight end Aaron Hernandez (ankle) is inactive Sunday against Buffalo because of his lingering ankle injury.

Shiancoe, who was acquired during training camp, had been dealing with an undisclosed injury. He returned to practice on Oct. 23, which opened a 21-day window for the team to decide whether or not he would be removed from the IR list or remain out for the balance of 2012.

The 10-year veteran has been productive as a receiver during the course of his career, with 243 catches for 2,677 yards and 27 touchdowns in nine seasons between the Giants and the Vikings.

In activating Shiancoe, the Patriots now have five tight ends on their 53-man roster, although Michael Hoomanawanui has been aligning in a fullback formation in recent weeks.

Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski (hip) were both listed as questionable for Sunday but Gronkowski will play against the Bills.

This year marked the first for the provision allowing a player to be designated to return from injured reserve. Under the rule, Shiancoe was eligible to return to practice after Week 6 and play in games after Week 8.

When asked recently about whether Shiancoe was more of a combination tight end (who can serve as both a receiver and a blocker) or more proficient in one area, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he wasn't sure.

"I think when you look back at his career, he's done both," Belichick said. "But I don't know. We've had him, but for no games, so we'll see how it goes in our offense -- if we're able to get to that point, I don't know."

The Patriots had an open roster spot after running back Brandon Bolden was suspended Friday for four games due to a violation of the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing substances.