NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that running back Dion Lewis is expected to return to practice this week, per a source.
The elusive back started the season on the physically unable to perform list after tearing his ACL last season in early November. His return to practice opens a 21-day window in which he must be activated to the 53-man roster or placed on season-ending injured reserve.
When healthy last season, Lewis was the most dynamic pass-catching running back in the NFL. His quick cuts proverbially broke the ankles of countless linebackers. Tom Brady continually looked for Lewis' mismatch, as the 5-foot-8 shimmy-shaker caught 36 passes for 388 yards (10.8 average). Lewis also added 49 carries for 234 yards (4.8) as the change-of-pace complement to LeGarrette Blount.
The Patriots will likely tread a cautious path with Lewis. The 26-year-old has a history of injury troubles and is not yet a year removed from his ACL tear.
Even if Lewis returns this season, we don't know how much of that quick-cut ability he'll possess right away.
James White's improved play this season make's Lewis return less vital that it seemed to enter the season. White has negated some of his maddening drops and been more elusive in space in 2016.
With White's impressive performances and Lewis questionable knee, we wouldn't expect the Patriots to rush the injured player back into the fold. Anything from Lewis before January would be a cherry on top of Brady's potent offense.