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New England Patriots expected to keep Dion Lewis

By
Alex Butler
New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis holds a soccer ball after signing it for a member of the media during during Super Bowl LI Opening Night on January 30 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
New England Patriots running back Dion Lewis holds a soccer ball after signing it for a member of the media during during Super Bowl LI Opening Night on January 30 at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

May 28 (UPI) -- Despite numerous offseason signings clogging up its backfield, the New England Patriots are expected to retain Dion Lewis.

ESPN reported Saturday that Lewis should still have a spot on the team as a kickoff returner and reserve running back.

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Lewis, 26, is a fantastic pass catcher and averaged 4.4 yards per carry in an injury-shortened 2016 campaign. He hasn't played in more than 9 games in a season since his rookie year in 2011 because of several lower body ailments.

The Patriots are 17-0 with Lewis in the lineup since 2015. He returned to its lineup in Week 11 last season after recovering from ACL surgery.

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The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Lewis in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. He was traded to the Cleveland Browns in 2013, before signing on with the Patriots.

Despite losing 2016 NFL rushing touchdown leader LeGarrette Blount in free agency, the Patriots come back with a strong backfield including offseason acquisitions Mike Gillislee and Rex Burkhead. It also still has James White, D.J. Foster and Brandon Bolden on its depth chart.

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Patriots running back coach Ivan Fears recently hinted that Lewis would keep his spot on the roster, despite the talent at the position.

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"No, nobody's forgotten Dion," Fears told USA Today at OTAs Thursday. "That's in your [media] world. Dion's still Dion. Shoot, nobody works harder than Dion around here getting ready to go. Shoot, you guys say that. Don't throw that at me."

"No, no, no. I haven't forgotten Dion — not one bit. Nobody on this staff or team has forgotten Dion. So Dion's still a hell of a part of this program. I don't know where that's coming from. But the press, you guys can handle that yourself."

Lewis also said he's looking forward to the competition, something he has faced at each and every stop during his career.

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"We've got a great group of guys and I'm happy to have them here," Lewis told the Enterprise News. "I'm looking forward to competing against those guys."

You could argue that the Patriots wouldn't have hoisted the Lombardi in February if it hadn't had Lewis in the postseason.

Lewis scored three touchdowns, including a 98-yard kickoff return, a rushing score and a receiving score in the Patriots' AFC divisional round playoff win against the Houston Texans. His best game as a runner last season came in the Patriots' Week 15 win against the Denver Broncos. Lewis carried 18 times for 95 yards and had two catches for nine yards in that Dec. 18 squashing at Mile High Stadium.

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Lewis is playing on the final year of his three-year, $3.1 million contract.

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