Patriots

Dion Lewis: 'Tough' to be out of the running

Dion Lewis: 'Tough' to be out of the running

FOXBORO -- The Patriots backfield is more crowded than Route 128 at rush hour, and that's even as Rex Burkhead deals with a rib injury that kept him out of last Sunday's game against the Texans. 

But while Mike Gillislee and James White have clear and defined roles, and the snaps that go with that, Dion Lewis sits and waits.

"It's tough," Lewis told me Wednesday, "but I just come every day, and try to work hard like I always do. My time will come. I know what kind of player I am. My teammates know what type of player I am. I'll get my chance and show people what I can do, but I don't really have no control over that."

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Lewis has gotten just 32 snaps on offense through the first three weeks of the season, and 12 touches. It appears as though Lewis is an afterthought, and he's not keen on being labeled as such, or feeling that way. That's made the first three weeks of the season very tough to watch.

"I want to be out there making plays," he said. "It's definitely tough -- a tough situation. I love playing football. I don't like to watch. It's tough. Things will work out. Eventually they'll work out, and when I get my chance, you'll see a lot of special things."

Lewis dazzled the hell out of us to start 2015, going from a bubble player in training camp to one of the most explosive players in the league through the first 6 1/2 games. Then came the knee injury and a setback at the start of last year. Even when Lewis returned at the tail end of 2016, he admitted the knee wasn't right. Now, the freshly minted 27-year-old (Wednesday was his birthday) wants to show he's all the way back.

That's why trade rumors that have involved him aren't worrisome at all. In fact, you could say he'd embraced that opportunity were it to come.

"It's not a distraction," he sad. "I don't really focus on that, but obviously teams know I'm not playing and they know I'm a good player, That's probably where that comes from. I have no control over that. The only thing I can control is how hard I work. That's what I do."

Lewis is in the last year of his contract. Hard for him to get paid sitting idle in the garage. He wants to run. Maybe it's here, maybe it's somewhere else, but that much is pretty clear.

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Tomlin/Steelers vs. Belichick/Patriots: Different strokes for different folks

Tomlin/Steelers vs. Belichick/Patriots: Different strokes for different folks

FOXBORO -- Mike Tomlin has been Pittsburgh’s head coach since 2007, named to the post at the ripe old age of 35. A year later, he and the Steelers won a Super Bowl.

More Lombardi Trophies seemed certain to follow, but -- despite a half-dozen seasons of 10 wins or more -- Pittsburgh and that stacked roster has come up short ever since, including an AFC Championship Game loss at New England last season.

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You might think that would dim Tomlin’s confidence. No chance. He may be a decade older, but he still has oodles of swagger. We saw that earlier in the year when during an interview with Tony Dungy prior to Sunday Night Football, he admitted to looking ahead to the Steelers’ matchup with the Pats.

"I'm going to embrace the elephant in the room. (The game) going to be fireworks," Tomlin said in that conversation. "And it's probably going to be Part 1. That's going to be a big game. But probably, if we're both doing what we're supposed to, the second one is really going to be a big game. Then what happens in the first is going to set up the second one, which is going to determine the location of the second one."

You’d never hear Bill Belichick go that route and he’s won five Super Bowls here in New England. We are now conditioned to believe that’s not only the right way but the only way to do business. I would tend to agree. History doesn’t lie.

Tomlin, however. isn’t adopting Belichick’s public approach. He says he’ll be forthright with the media because he’s doing what he’s supposed to do in his job. Perhaps that’s a little jab at Belichick and the Pats, who have long been less than forthcoming.

“I don’t know if any of us were looking ahead, to be quite honest with you," he said "That was the way it was described by (the media). We were simply answering questions. We were doing our professional due diligence. When we do interviews and people ask us about potential big games down the road, we’re going to politely answer questions and do so honestly. That’s not us down the road, that is us simply performing our professional duties.”

An exuberant fellow, Tomlin thinks it’s foolish to not admit there are larger things at play during the course of a season.

“If you set out on the season to be world champs, obviously you’re going to play in significant games along the way,” he said. “The road gets increasingly narrower. That is part of being [on] the pursuit of a world championship play. It’s ridiculous to goal set and not to acknowledge natural things that occur along the way if you are committed to the pursuit of your goals.”

To reach those goals, Tomlin’s Steelers usually need to go through the Patriots. This season is no different. Right now, Pittsburgh is the top seed in the AFC. The Pats are number two but can reclaim that spot with a win Sunday afternoon.

The Patriots may not have a real rival in the AFC East, but what they have with the Steelers is real.

“It's an awesome thing to be a part of," said Tomlin. "Not something that I or we take for granted. To be in significant games is just part of chasing what it is that we're chasing and to have a routine dance partner that just speaks to their commitment and achievements in similar ways. We're excited to be a part of it. We don't take it for granted. We realize that these type games are just part of what we desire to be.”

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Cannon on season-ending IR among Patriots moves

patriots-marcus-cannon.jpg

Cannon on season-ending IR among Patriots moves

Patriots starting right tackle Marcus Cannon was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Wednesday in a series of roster moves announced by the team.MOR

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As had been reported Tuesday, wide receiver Kenny Britt, released by the Browns last week, was signed. Also, defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois was re-signed (he had been released Dec. 2) and linebacker Jonathan Freeny and wide receiver Bernard Reedy were released.

Cannon, 29, has missed six games, including the past five, with an ankle injury. The veteran offensive lineman had his best season in 2016 and was rated by Pro Football Focus as the top right tackle last season. LaAdrian Waddle and Cameron Fleming have been filling in for him.