FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) The Spring of Gronk has officially begun. So, too, have the first meaningful steps on the road back for Patriots running back Dion Lewis.
Lewis, who is recovering from November surgery to repair a torn left ACL, made his first on-field appearance of New England's offseason program Monday - the final day that this portion of organized team activities are open to the media.
He said getting to do actual drills was a welcome change from the strict protocols that trainers and doctors have had him under since his injury.
''It feels good to do football stuff. It's been awhile. A little rusty. Just trying to be myself again,'' Lewis said.
Tight end Rob Gronkowski was also on the field for the first time after being absent from the on-field portion of last week's mandatory minicamp.
On Monday, quarterback Tom Brady's favorite target sported a shaved head and the same cheery disposition that has made him a favorite of Patriots fans.
Gronkowski said he was excited to be back and echoed the characterization that coach Bill Belichick made last week when asked why Gronk and several Patriots were missing from the workouts.
''I was just doing other things, as coach said last week, so everything's good,'' Gronkowski said. ''We were just working on other things so everything's all smooth. Everything's good.''
This isn't the first time that Lewis has had to work his way back from a major injury.
While with the Cleveland Browns during the 2013 preseason he broke his left leg and never played a regular season game with them before being released.
The Patriots saw something in him and were rewarded with the 622 offensive yards and four touchdowns he posted in seven games in 2015 before tearing his ACL Nov. 8 against Washington.
New England seems willing to wait to see if Lewis can bounce back again. Especially after its rushing attack took a noticeable dive following Lewis' injury and never recovered after the subsequent season-ending hip injury to LaGarrette Blount.
This offseason is also a big one for the Patriots passing game following the addition of veteran tight end Martellus Bennett. Bennett praised ''funny guy'' Gronkowski and Gronk was equally complimentary of his new teammate.
''He's another guy that brings a lot of football knowledge to the game in the meeting rooms,'' Gronkowski said. ''He's been with a few teams, with a few coaches, and has played all around, so it's great to get so much knowledge from him and from the coaches.
''Going out on the field, he's a hard worker. He puts some dedication in so it's great to be with him out there.''
Lewis said he's not taking the faith the Patriots have in him for granted, and said his most recent injury has taught him more than ever to ''just cherish football.''
''I told myself I'm gonna work as hard as possible to be back as fast as possible,'' he said. ''I'm just still trying to get better and stronger every day.''
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