Dion Lewis looked like his usual shifty, explosive, pre-season-ending knee injury self Sunday as he played his first football game in more than a calendar year.
The New England Patriots eased Lewis, who tore his ACL last November and hadn’t played since, back into the mix in his first game back, giving him a workload of just 20 snaps in a 30-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers. The running back made the most of that limited playing time, however, rushing five times for 23 yards and adding three receptions for 26 yards.
“It’s like riding a bike,” Lewis told reporters after the game. “I’ve been playing this game for a long time, so I’m just happy to be back out there with my teammates.”
He added: “I was just thinking about going out there and trying to execute and make sure I make no mistakes. I never really sat down and thought, ‘This is my first game of the year.’ I was ready to go.”
Lewis showed no ill effects of the injury that shelved him for 19 games (regular season and postseason), showcasing the type of lateral quickness and burst that made him a force to be reckoned with last season.
“It felt good,” said Lewis, who was removed from the physically unable to perform list last weekend. “I don’t really think about not getting hit or getting hit. I was ready to go. Just football as normal. I was just going out there and playing football. I’m healthy, so there’s nothing else to really think about.”
Sunday was a banner day for all three Patriots running backs. LeGarrette Blount racked up 124 yards on 19 carries — including 44 on one mad dash late in the first quarter — and had a 35-yard touchdown run called back because of a penalty. James White caught six passes for 63 yards and one score.
Moving forward, it will be intriguing to see how Lewis’ return affects Blount and White from a playing time standpoint. Blount has been the between-the-tackles workhorse thus far — his 201 carries through 10 games equal his single-season career high — while White has been used more as a pass-catcher, tallying 39 receptions to just 28 carries.
Lewis’ skill set allows him to excel in both the running game and the passing game, and having him back in the fray adds a dangerous new dimension to an already-formidable New England offense.
“It was challenging,” Lewis said of his extended absence, “but it can make you or it could break you. I’ve been through a lot worse stuff than this. I’ve been through a lot worse stuff than not being able to play and being hurt. The things I’ve been through in my life prepare me for this moment, and I always push through.”
Thumbnail photo via Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports Images