Dion Lewis remains on the physically unable to perform list, but the running back could be activated to New England's 53-man roster any time between now and the days leading up to its Week 11 contest against the 49ers.
Lewis returned to practice on Oct. 27 -- the Thursday before the bye week -- opening a three-week window for the Patriots to activate him. If he's not activated during that span, he'll be placed on season-ending injured reserve. After signing tight end Matt Lengel last week, the Patriots have 53 players on their roster, meaning they would have to make room for Lewis if they were to add him to the active roster.
After enduring two knee surgeries in the last year -- one last year to repair his torn ACL and one before the season to fix a patella fracture -- teammates and coaches alike have been pleased to see the dymanic all-purpose back return to the practice field.
"Yeah, it’s great to have Dion around," offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels said on Monday. "Dion works extremely hard at anything he’s doing whether it was his rehab, his preparation for the opponent, periods in practice, whatever it might be, his role in the game plan. Dion does a great job of preparing hard. He comes here ready to work each day. He puts in a full day and really cares about doing things the right way.
"I’m always excited to have any of our guys back out there on the field with us. It’s the thing that we enjoying doing with them the most, working with them on the field. It’s been nice to have him out there and we look forward to his progression here as he works back into it."
Last season, the Patriots knew they had a unique talent at their disposal when Lewis was available. His quickness in and out of breaks made him arguably the toughest player to tackle in the NFL: His 43 missed tackles on 85 touches would have given him the highest "elusive rating" that Pro Football Focus ever recorded -- by a wide margin.
It's unclear how Lewis will factor into the Patriots offense whenever he is activated -- James White has filled in admirably as Lewis' replacement since the middle of last season -- and McDaniels explained that the Patriots will take a wait-and-see approach as Lewis gets more and more up to speed.
"I think our philosophy on that hasn’t really changed," McDaniels said. "I think when Bill and the medical people tell us it’s appropriate to put a player into certain periods, whatever those might be, whether that’s individual, team, seven-on-seven, whatever it might end up being, then you try to do that based on the schedule that they tell you, and then you let the player give us feedback on how he’s feeling and we’ll go from there.
"We always try to do the right thing for the player. The most important thing to us is the health of our guys and making sure that they’re ready. We’re going to do the right thing in that situation, and whenever it’s time, it’s time."