Dion Lewis’ Knee Injury Is a Reminder of Football’s Cruelty

His career year is over.

Photo via AP

Photo via AP

Update, 1:38 p.m.: Jim McBride of the Globe reports Lewis will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL.


Fame in the NFL can be ephemeral. Just ask Dion Lewis. Last year at this time, he was sitting at home waiting for a team to invite him in for a tryout. This fall, he’s been a key part of the highest-scoring offense in the league and just inked a multi-year contract extension with the most successful team in professional football. But Lewis’ dream season may have been shattered Sunday, all because his knee might have twisted the wrong way.

With 5:35 remaining in the third quarter of the Patriots’ 27-10 win over the Redskins, Tom Brady connected with Lewis in the flat on a 2nd-and-20. It’s a play that’s become a staple during long-yardage situations for the Pats, as Lewis’ elusiveness makes him difficult to bring down in the open field. This time, Lewis dashed forward for 14 years before falling to the ground and clutching his left knee. He left the game immediately afterwards.

According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, Lewis is slated to undergo an MRI on his knee Monday. If the injury Lewis sustained is as severe as it appeared, there’s a chance he could be sidelined for the rest of the season. That would be a shame, because Lewis’ story of perseverance should be inspiring to anybody who’s ever been told “no.”

Though Lewis broke a Big East rushing record as a freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, the Philadelphia Eagles didn’t select him until the fifth-round of the 2011 Draft. He only carried the ball 36 times in two seasons with the Eagles before they released him prior to the 2013 campaign. The Browns snatched Lewis up, but then he fractured his fibula at the end of training camp and missed the entire year. Cleveland cut bait with Lewis before the 2014 season, and he went two full years without playing a snap in the NFL before the Patriots signed him to a contract last New Year’s Eve.

This year, Lewis has cemented himself as a critical component to the Patriots’ potent offensive attack. He’s gained 622 yards from scrimmage in eight games—234 on the ground and 388 as a receiver.

Lewis’ production isn’t all that dissimilar from what Shane Vereen, who led the team in receptions in Super Bowl XLIX, gave the Patriots at the end of last season. The Pats drafted Vereen in 2011 to replace Danny Woodhead, who seamlessly stepped in for Kevin Faulk once the 13-year veteran was yanked from the starting lineup at the conclusion of the 2009 campaign.

Running backs in the NFL are largely dispensable, but that’s especially the case here. Bill Belichick seldom signs halfbacks to lucrative free agent contracts, nor does he select them early in the draft. Instead, he often opts to bring them in off the scrap heap, whether it be signing the undrafted BenJarvus Green-Ellis in 2009 or trading for the talented yet combustible Corey Dillon in 2004. With the exception of Faulk, not a single running back who’s played under Belichick in New England has stayed longer than four years.

It’s all about the Next Man Up in Foxboro, and that held true Sunday. While Lewis was out of action in the fourth quarter, Brady connected with his replacement, Brandon Bolden, for an 18-yard touchdown pass that iced the game. The Patriots didn’t skip a beat.

History says Lewis’ time in the lights wasn’t going to last indefinitely. But here’s hoping it isn’t over after just eight games.