FOXBORO: The psychological pain, he insists, exceeded the physical ailment.
“I was upset,” Dion Lewis said on Monday, reflecting on the torn left anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in the Patriots’ 27-10 victory over Washington eight games into the 2015 season. “The pain wasn’t really that bad. It was just the fact that I wasn’t going to be out there playing with my teammates. That’s what hurt the most.”
Life without football is a feeling Lewis has experienced far too often during an on-again/off-again NFL career.
A fifth-round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in the 2011 draft, the running back appeared in 24 games over two seasons with that team before he was traded to Cleveland on April 11, 2013, in exchange for linebacker Emmanuel Acho.
Lewis’ career with the Browns never got off the ground: a fractured left fibula suffered in the preseason led to his placement on the season-ending injured reserve list in 2013; he went to training camp with the team but was released prior to the start of the regular season in 2014.
Signed by Indianapolis that September, Lewis lasted a week with the Colts; inactive for their game with the Eagles on Sept. 15, he was released by the team the following day and remained out of football until the Patriots came calling, announcing his signing on Feb. 6 of last year.
Life with the Patriots couldn’t have been much better for the 5-foot-8, 195-pounder prior to last Nov. 8 at Gillette Stadium.
Impressive in training camp, Lewis made the team and was extremely productive, generating 622 yards from scrimmage (36 receptions for 388 yards; 49 carries for 234) and four touchdowns prior to going down against the Redskins after catching a screen pass from Tom Brady.
With that, football was taken away from Lewis once again.
“It was extremely hard,” he said. “I love this game and whenever I’m not allowed to play it, it hurts. So I just worked as hard as I can and hopefully things will be different this year.”
Overcoming some initial apprehension, Lewis took a step forward when he stepped on to the practice field Monday, suiting up for his first practice of the offseason, the day’s organized team activity on the fields behind the stadium. Yesterday’s session kicked off the final week of the team’s OTAs.
“At the beginning, it was a little scary,” Lewis conceded. “But every day I get stronger. Every day I get stronger. I feel better every day. (I’ve) still got a long way to go.”
As he goes forward, though, Lewis said, he’ll put thoughts of the injury behind him.
“That’s the only way I know how to play,” he said, “so I’m going to play the same, exact way as I always played. That’s who I am.”
Whether he’ll be active at University of Phoenix Stadium for the Patriots’ regular-season opener with the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 11 remains to be seen.
While saying “hopefully I’m going to have a lot of fun this September,” Lewis reminded the media that “Week One is a long way away.”
Lewis’ goals this year, however, will include finishing what he started in 2015.
“It’s a new year,” said Lewis. “Last year was a disappointing finish. We’re just trying to build from what we did last year and learn from the mistakes last year so hopefully this year we can have a better result.”