NASHVILLE, Tenn. — After the Tennessee Titans throttled the New England Patriots last November, running back Dion Lewis had some choice words for his former team.
“Hell yeah, it’s personal,” the running back declared minutes after Tennessee’s stunning 34-10 victory. “That’s what happens when you go cheap. You get your ass kicked.”
Eight months later, Lewis is signing a different tune.
Lewis, whose anger stemmed from New England’s decision not to re-sign him during the 2018 offseason, said after Wednesday’s Patriots-Titans joint practice his explosive postgame comments last November were “all fun and games and just competitive.” He doesn’t regret those jabs, he said, but he no longer harbors ill will toward his old organization.
“That’s old news, man,” Lewis said. “I’m just happy I’m here, trying to get better, going against a Super Bowl-winning team. The only thing we can do is come out here every day and just try to get better, and I’m just blessed to have the opportunity to go against those guys in practice. It’ll definitely help us going into the season.”
He added: “I still love those guys. It was fun seeing those guys today. It still feels like I’m still there. The relationship I’ve built with those guys has been great. I love everyone on that team.”
Trash talk was prevalent during Wednesday’s joint practice, but Lewis said it was of the good-natured variety.
“That’s what you do when you go against somebody — you talk trash, you compete and you try to get better,” he said. “That’s just what it is. When you’re on the field, you’ve got to have that mindset and just have fun.”
Any mention of last year’s lopsided result at Nissan Stadium, in which Lewis, Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan and coach Mike Vrabel handed Bill Belichick’s squad its worst midseason loss in years?
“No, that’s old, man,” Lewis replied. “They won the Super Bowl! ‘Oh, we beat you.’ ‘Oh, we won the Super Bowl.’ ”
Though he left New England after the 2017 season, Lewis remains close with Patriots running backs James White, Rex Burkhead and Brandon Bolden.
“I have a great bond with those guys that I’ll never forget,” Lewis said. “Probably the greatest group of running backs I’ve ever been around. We’re all still close. We all still talk every day, so it’s just great to go out there and see those guys. … I’m proud of everything they’ve done.”
Lewis shared a particularly strong bond with White.
“I learned a lot from James,” he said. “I asked James questions literally every single day. We sat right next to each other in meetings. He’s one of the smartest football players I’ve ever played with, so I’m just trying to take what I learned from him in the past and try to put that into my game.”
Splitting touches with third-year pro Derrick Henry, Lewis endured a disappointing statistical season in 2018, averaging a career-low 3.3 yards per carry and managing just two total touchdowns (one rushing, one receiving). Though the bitterness that accompanied his Patriots exit has faded, the chip on his shoulder that’s motivated him throughout his career remains.
“Oh no, the chip’s still there,” Lewis said. “The chip’s got to be there. That’s just who I am. That’s how I play. I’ve got to come out here fiery, with a chip, talk trash. That’s who I am. I have fun and work hard. That’s just who I am, and I’m going to continue to be that way until they don’t allow me to come out here and play football anymore.
Thumbnail photo via Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY Sports Images