Belichick liked what he saw from Lewis in preseason opener

Belichick liked what he saw from Lewis in preseason opener

FOXBORO -- It would make sense for the Patriots to want to keep Dion Lewis under wraps this preseason. He's experienced a litany of devastating injuries over the course of his career. He's proven what he can do when fully healthy.

Why run him out there for an exhibition game? Better yet, why not manage him with the long-haul in mind, slowly working him back up to speed over the course of the season so that he's good to go when it matters most? 

The Patriots seemed to have no such plans for the pint-sized dynamo on Thursday as he carried seven times (second-most on the team) for 32 yards. He also saw five targets (third-most), catching four for 23 yards. He played 23 snaps against the Jaguars, tied for the most of any Patriots running back along with DJ Foster. 

About a year removed from knee surgery to repair a fractured patella, Lewis looked like the runner we saw in flashes last season. He was quick. He eluded defenders. He showed good hands. 

Bill Belichick liked what he saw.

"Dion's had a good spring and a good summer, worked very hard in the offseason program, got an opportunity to do some things last night," the Patriots coach said during a conference call on Friday. "I thought he was very competitive, made some plays in the running game and in the passing game. 

"Just overall an opportunity for backs to just sharpen up their skills, their run reads, getting tackled, dealing with contact, making those quick decisions with the ball in their hands that you practice in practice, but we all know it’s not quite the same as game situations, especially the tackling and contact part of it. I think it's good for those guys to get used to that, so the first one isn’t in a regular season game and they're not used to it. Hopefully, this will help to break them into that."

The workload Lewis took on could have been in some ways by necessity. Mike Gillislee is dealing with an injury and didn't play Thursday. Rex Burkhead and James White could have significant roles in the offense to start the season, and neither player participated Thursday. 

That left Lewis, Foster, Brandon Bolden and LeShun Daniels Jr. to shoulder things as the available running backs. 

For Lewis to handle his share without incident -- and while looking closer to the Dion Lewis of old in the process -- was a good development for the Patriots and their running back room. If he can remain healthy, Belichick and Josh McDaniels will have the ability to stress defenses with various combinations of their versatile backs on the field simultaneously.

Hightower happy to be back in New England following free agency

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Hightower happy to be back in New England following free agency

FOXBORO -- Dont'a Hightower met with reporters to talk football on Wednesday morning at Gillette Stadium, the first time he had done so since signing an extension with the Patriots back in March.

About five months later, no regrets.

"It’s good. I’m glad I didn’t have to relocate," Hightower said with a smile. "Stressful, but glad it’s over with. Glad I’m here. I’m glad I’m back on the field now."

Hightower, who was removed from the physically unable to perform list on Wednesday, explained that there was a point during the free agency process at which he believed he might end up playing elsewhere. 

"Yeah, it’s free agency," Hightower said. "But it is what it is. It’s over and done with now. I’m here."

On spending his career to this point in New England and being a member of the Patriots, Hightower added: "It’s meant a lot. I’ve been here my whole career. It wasn’t a hard change for what I had in college, so I was definitely used to it. So it wasn’t a big change. I feel like I’ve had a lot of success in programs like this. Alabama and New England are not too far different. The culture around here, the teammates, the coaches is second to none anywhere. When it came down to my decision, it wasn’t too hard of a choice."

Brady recalls scrubbing rooftops, cleaning industrial parks during summers at Michigan

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Brady recalls scrubbing rooftops, cleaning industrial parks during summers at Michigan

FOXBORO -- Tom Brady's not sure if he'll be able to get back to Ann Arbor as he and the Patriots spend some time this week in the state of Michigan leading up to their preseason game against the Lions on Friday. He's hoping he'll be able to sneak over at some point. Maybe he'll have an opportunity to talk to the football team.

On Wednesday, Brady described his time at Michigan as the "pit stop" of his life's journey from California to Massachusetts. It's also representative of the midpoint of his life now in a way since he spent 18 years growing up on the West Coast, and now he's in his 18th year in New England. 

As part of his college experience, Brady learned what it was like to work a job that didn't involve throwing a football. As it turned out, those experiences didn't provide much in the way of on-the-job training for his eventual career. But he didn't know he was going to become a Hall of Fame quarterback. When the fifth round came and went in 2000, he said on Facebook back in 2014, he figured those summer internships during his Michigan days and the resume they beefed up might help him land a gig that would pay the bills. 

"Those were good experiences," he said Wednesday. "I was at Michigan in the summer. You work different jobs, you get a scholarship check, but you're trying to afford -- like all of us were -- our coll experience. I worked in construction. Worked at a golf course to play free golf. That's what I liked to do. Worked at a festival at night so I was working two jobs. It was good experiences. It really was hard work."

And it might have taken his appreciation for playing football -- something he plans to do at an age when most players have been retired for a decade or more -- to a different level.

"I've been so fortunate to do something I love to do," he said. "I've said for a long time, working out and training and being on the practice field never feels like work for me. That definitely felt like work when you're cleaning up industrial parks and scrubbing the tops of roofs and stuff like that. Man, I was pretty tired at the end of those days."