Patriots

Belichick says he wouldn't be opposed to using Lewis in short-yardage

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Belichick says he wouldn't be opposed to using Lewis in short-yardage

FOXBORO -- Dion Lewis has played 32 offensive snaps in three games for the Patriots this season. That's third among Patriots running backs, squarely behind Mike Gillislee (75) and James White (104), and ahead of Rex Burkhead (18) who was injured early in New England's Week 2 matchup with the Saints. 

When Lewis first arrived to the Patriots in 2015, his snap counts were decidedly different as he saw a combined 154 snaps through three games. He was healthy then. And despite coming off of an injury-shortened 2016, he appears to be healthy now. 

So what has changed?

Well, Bill Belichick's offensive personnel is decidedly different. James White has solidified himself as one of the team's most trusted offensive weapons. Mike Gillislee was signed as a restricted free agent in the offseason to be New England's big back. 

That leaves Lewis as the smaller of two jack-of-all-trades all-purpose threats. Burkhead, who is still dealing with a rib injury and has missed two days of practice this week, is the other. 

Lewis' torn ACL in 2015 and his subsequent patella fracture before the 2016 season could be significant pieces of the puzzle here as well. Lewis is clearly a dynamic offensive weapon when on the field, but perhaps the team would like to manage his workload in order to help keep him healthy for the stretch run. 

Lewis has helped the team as its kick returner, giving him an opportunity at a few extra touches per game, and Belichick said on Friday that he likes what he's seen from Lewis when he's been on the field. 

"I think Dion's been good," Belichick said. "Can make plays with the ball in his hands. Running game and the passing game. No problem with him in there. He's done a good job when he's gotten an opportunity."

Of his eight carries in 2017, Lewis has two of the more impressive short gains of the season. 

The first came in the third quarter against the Chiefs, when Lewis was hit a yard behind the line of scrimmage, wiggled away, bounced off three tackles and somehow fell forward for five yards. The other came in the third quarter against the Saints, when Lewis was hit a yard behind the line of scrimmage again, spun out of two tackles, dove underneath two more hits, and fell forward for a one-yard gain.

Neither of those plays featured opposing defenses stacking the line of scrimmage the way they would in a third-and-one or fourth-and-one situation, but maybe the Patriots will be willing to try him in those spots against the Panthers this weekend.

Belichick has been open about the fact that the Patriots have struggled in short-yardage, and he said on Friday that he'd be comfortable handing the ball to Lewis when those types of plays arise.

"Sure. I think he's good with the ball in his hands," Belichick said. "Good vision. Runs hard. Low center of gravity. He's a hard guy to tackle. I think you could hand him the ball in any situation. Inside, outside. He's a hard guy to tackle. And he has good vision and he can find space."

Gronkowski advises Hayward to treat rehab like anything else -- dominate

Gronkowski advises Hayward to treat rehab like anything else -- dominate

FOXBORO -- Rob Gronkowski's never suffered a break like the one Gordon Hayward did on Tuesday night, but he has been through enough to know what lies ahead as the Celtics forward stares at a lengthy recovery period.

"I saw it. I mean, I wish him nothing but wellness," Gronkowski said on Wednesday. "Hopefully he heals ASAP. You never want to see that with a player in any sport. When my friend showed me that last night, you get that feeling in your body, like, your heart drops. I wish him well.

"I can't wait to see him back. I know he's going to bounce back. Being here in Boston, he's going to be a hard worker it feels like. I can't wait to see him back."

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Multiple back surgeries, a plate in his arm, a surgically-repaired ACL . . . Gronkowski has put in his share of rehabilitation work. Asked if he'd give Hayward any advice as he embarks on his road back to normalcy, Gronkowski's message was simple.

"Just go into rehab just like you go into anything else. Dominate it," Gronkowski said. "Come back when you feel ready. Come back when you're 100 percent . . . He wouldn't be where he is now if he wasn't a hard worker. I don't know the guy. Never met him. But it's not something you want to see as an athlete happen to anyone else."

Gronkowski acknowledged that in his experience, one of the biggest hurdles following an injury like that is the mental one. You quickly go from being a powerful athlete to a patient in need of help with even the smallest of tasks. 

"There is a big mental challenge, definitely, with that," Gronkowski explained. "It's not just not being able to be with your teammates and all that. It's outside of football, too. Because it takes away your whole life, going out like that . . . You can't do anything. You can't walk. You gotta have people do [things for you]. You get really frustrated. You just want the people around you to help you out and keep you in the best mindset throughout the whole process."

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Patriots-Falcons practice report: Gilmore, Rowe absent; Hogan added

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Patriots-Falcons practice report: Gilmore, Rowe absent; Hogan added

FOXBORO -- Chris Hogan only had one catch for 19 yards against the Jets. He very nearly had a second grab in the second quarter, but Tom Brady's throw was off the mark, and Hogan's ribs were exposed for rookie safety Marcus Maye to hammer. The pass fell incomplete and Hogan crumpled to the turf. 

He didn't leave the game, but Hogan did end up on Wednesday's injury report as a limited participant in practice due to a ribs injury. He was one of three players added to this week's injury report. Linebacker Elandon Roberts has an ankle injury and did not participate in Wednesday's workout. Guard Shaq Mason has a shoulder issue and was limited. 

Eric Rowe and Stephon Gilmore, neither of whom were spotted at the start of the session, did not participate.

Here's Wednesday's full practice participation/injury report for Sunday's Patriots-Falcons game:

NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
CB Stephon Gilmore (concussion/ankle)
LB Harvey Langi (back)
LB Elandon Roberts (ankle)
CB Eric Rowe (groin)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
RB Rex Burkhead (ribs)
WR Chris Hogan (ribs)
G Shaq Mason (shoulder)

ATLANTA FALCONS

DID NOT PARTICIPATE
K Matt Bryant (back)

LIMITED PARTICIPATION
OLB Vic Beasley Jr. (hamstring)
LB Jermaine Grace (hamstring)
LB Deion Jones (quadricep)
DE Takk McKinley (shoulder)
LB Duke Riley (knee)
WR Mohamed Sanu (hamstring)
DL Courtney Upshaw (ankle/knee)