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Patriots RB Dion Lewis: 'Tough road, but it made me, it didn't break me'

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Two games into his return to action, New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis has knocked off a year’s worth of football rust and already shown his knack for decisive cuts and making defenders miss.

He has been happy to put his torn left ACL in the rearview mirror.

“It was a tough road,” he said, “but it made me, it didn’t break me.”

How the Patriots have integrated Lewis back into their plans has been notable -- with 21 snaps against the San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 20 and then 23 this past Sunday against the New York Jets.

The knee has held up well.

“I feel good. I’m getting better every week,” said Lewis, who has 11 carries for 47 yards (4.3 average) and has added seven catches for 60 yards (8.6 average), meaning he has touched the football almost 50 percent of the time he has been in the game. “I’m getting back in my rhythm. The past two weeks I’ve felt good and I’m just trying to build on that.”

Lewis, 26, acknowledged there has been some rust, and the biggest part is “getting used to playing football again” after a setback over the summer extended his time in rehab.

But that really hasn’t shown on the field, as he has been elusive and decisive on most plays. Meanwhile, confidence has never been an issue, as he welcomes the physical pounding.

“I can take it. I’m a big guy,” he joked. “I won’t say survival, I’ll say survival for them. I don’t mind getting hit, but I’m not going to let somebody hit me if I can avoid him. I’m definitely going to try to do that -- use my low center of gravity to my advantage.”

Lewis’ return has created more flexibility for offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who has utilized Lewis and fellow passing-game back James White on the field together for six plays over the past two weeks. That “pony” grouping, which has shown up on some critical third downs, has produced notable plays such as Lewis’ 9-yard catch against the 49ers on the team’s opening touchdown drive.

“It presents a couple of different options to a defense,” coach Bill Belichick said. “If you have a tight end and a back in there, then I think they’re pretty sure the tight end isn’t going to handle the ball in the running game. When you have two backs in there, then that’s a little bit of a different story. How do you treat them [as a defense]? It’s another way to use those guys and put another log on the fire for the defense that they’ve got to make some kind of adjustment to.”

As for Lewis’ adjustment in returning to action, it has been as smooth as the club could have hoped for, with his role likely to grow as he gains even more comfort.

“I just stayed positive, kept working, and knew what I had to do," he said of his comeback. “If it was easy, everybody would do it, and everybody can’t do it.”

Lewis, for his part, has made it look easy.