BLOOMINGTON, Minn. - A few days away from a Super Bowl LII matchup with the team that drafted him, Patriots running back Dion Lewis was pretty succinct and honest when asked what he remembered from his two seasons in Philadelphia.
"Not playing," he said during a meeting with the media this week at the Mall of America.
Though Lewis indeed played in 24 games over his two seasons with the Eagles as a fifth-round pick out of Pittsburgh in 2011, the former college workhorse carried the ball a mere 36 times in two years before he was traded to the Browns.
After disappointing stops in Cleveland (a broken leg derailed his entire 2013 season) and Indianapolis, Lewis finally found a home as a key cog in the Patriots offense with a breakout 2015 season.
Though he also missed a year-plus to a torn ACL suffered midway through 2015, Lewis closed out the 2017 campaign as New England's lead back. He finished the regular season with 10 games with double-digit carries, pacing the Patriots with 180 attempts for 896 yards (5.0 avg.) and six touchdowns. His 180 rushes this season were more than his 149 career rushes over his first five seasons combined.
He's created plenty of memories for the defending Super Bowl champs, leading up to a battle with the team where it all started for him as a professional. But Lewis claims he's not bringing anything extra to this rumble for a ring with his first employer.
"I always try to play with a chip on my shoulder just to go out there, prove what I can do," Lewis said. "That's kind of my motivation -- just go out there and show people what I can do. It's not because of who we're playing, I just have that same mentality no matter what."
Lewis admits that he had to learn "to be more mature" when he entered the league. He acknowledges the role that former Eagles running backs LeSean McCoy and Ronnie Brown played in that process to get him to where he is now.
"Because I was young," Lewis said. "Straight from college, I have never really been in that position. It was still football. I was still playing because it was fun, not because I looked at it as a job or anything. I had the same approach I always had. I just had to learn how to be more like a pro, how to take care of my body and had to put more work in."
That work has paid off, but is far from done. As he heads toward free agency this spring coming off a career year, what could end up as Lewis' final game in a Patriots uniform is against an Eagles defense that was No. 1 in the NFL against the run during the regular season.
Though the rushing yards may be tough to come by, Lewis, James White and Rex Burkhead may find favorable matchups in the passing game against Philly's linebackers, a group that's not nearly as talented or speedy as what New England faced against Jacksonville in the AFC title game.
"We're always confident in any matchup against any linebackers. We like our matchups against any linebackers with any one of our running backs," Lewis said.
Of course part of being a Patriots running back in the team's committee approach is never knowing exactly what your role will be. Though Lewis was the lead dog in the group over the second half of the season, he knows anything can happen come Sunday.
"I just have to go out there and do what I'm asked to do to help my team win. They have a great defense. Great against the run. We just have to focus on what it takes as a team to make plays against these guys. That's what we're going to do," Lewis proclaimed. "Whatever the coaches think we need to do. I'm all about just make sure we win."
So though the lasting memory from his time with the Eagles is "not playing," Lewis will be happy regardless of his reps on Super Bowl Sunday as long as the end result is similar to the one he experienced a year ago to secure his first ring.
"As a football player you want to be out there. But it's about the team," Lewis concluded. "You have to put the team first. We have one more game left. Nobody really cares about your stats everybody just wants to get this win.
"I'll be ready for whatever."
And the Eagles defense needs to be ready for the same against New England's versatile back whose NFL story began with a couple nondescript seasons in Philadelphia.