FOXBORO, Mass. — Between James White’s Super Bowl LI heroics and the offseason acquisitions of Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead, we’d forgive you if you temporarily overlooked Dion Lewis.
But let’s be clear: Lewis has no plans of getting lost in the shuffle.
The New England Patriots running back suited up for the team’s first fully padded practice Saturday at Gillette Stadium, a notable milestone for a guy who missed all of training camp last year while recovering from a torn ACL.
“It’s great just to be out here with my teammates,” Lewis said after Saturday’s practice. “Long days, but I miss it.”
It’s a good thing Lewis is healthy and getting reps, because he’ll face plenty of competition for touches. Despite losing LeGarrette Blount this offseason, the Patriots’ running back corps is deep enough that Gillislee declared it the best group he’s ever played with.
Lewis sounds fully up to the challenge, though.
“It’s competition,” he said. “If you’re scared of competition, you’re probably playing the wrong sport.
“I’m confident in my abilities. I know what I can bring to the table. I’m just trying to come out here every day, work hard, get better, listen to what the coaches are doing and try to limit my mistakes.”
The 26-year-old shouldn’t have to worry much about job security. When healthy, he’s been one of New England’s most effective offensive weapons — he averaged 4.4 yards per rush last season while recording 17 catches in seven games. In 2015, before his ACL injury, he amassed 388 receiving yards while averaging 10.8 yards per catch.
Lewis also has taken reps in the return game in training camp and knows his versatility will be key to maximizing his touches.
“The more you can do, the better,” he said. “So, I just try to be as versatile as I can and just try to show (the coaches) I can do more.”
Competitive spirit aside, though, Lewis seems to be fully embracing the 2017 running back group.
“We’ve got a lot of great guys, a lot of great talent,” Lewis said. “Everybody’s a good guy. You know how the running back group was last year — we’re a real close group, so I’m just happy to have those guys. They’ve really bought in. They come to work, and that’s all you can really ask for.”
Thumbnail photo via Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports Images