No one can say Dion Lewis is not prepared for what awaits him with the Giants.
He learned the art of patience the past two years, and especially last season, as a seldom-used running back, watching Derrick Henry run amok for the Titans. Those lessons should bode well for Lewis is his new assignment with the Giants as a backup to Saquon Barkley.
“A lot,’’ Lewis said Friday on a conference call, when asked what he took from the 2019 season in Tennessee. “How to be a good team player, doing what I can to encourage the guy in front of me, just watching the game, when they come off if they need to ask me a question about anything I’m always very honest.
“You watch the game from a different perspective but at the same time you always got to be ready, you always got to be alert, you always got to be in shape because you never know when your number’s gonna be called. It’s a unique situation and I’ve been dealing with it the past two years with Derrick. I think it will definitely help me come here and do whatever I can to help this group.’’
Lewis, 29, has yet to share the locker room or practice field with Barkley but he is already familiar with truths that are self-evident.
“Obviously with a player like Saquon, you want him on the field as much as possible,’’ Lewis said. “He’s one of the better backs in this league and I understand that.’’
Lewis signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million and in many ways he was drawn to the Giants, even with Barkley front-and-center as the starter. Lewis spent three years with the Patriots when Joe Judge was the special teams coordinator in New England and that played a big part in this matchmaking. Also, Lewis grew up a Giants fan in upstate Albany, where he said he was a “frequent visitor’’ to Giants training camp at the University at Albany. He recounted watching Tiki Barber, Kurt Warner, Amani Toomer and Ike Hilliard.
“It was a perfect and a unique opportunity,’’ Lewis said of coming to the Giants. “There were a lot of factors. Joe Judge being there, me having a relationship with him with my three years in New England. Also I grew up a Giants fan so it was always a dream of mine to play for them so when I got the opportunity in these circumstances I couldn’t pass it up. I’m looking forward to working with coach Joe Judge, playing for my hometown team and getting to work with Saquon as well.’’
Judge and Lewis won a Super Bowl together after the 2016 season. The next year, Lewis put together his finest NFL campaign, rushing 180 times for 896 yards and six touchdowns. Lewis in 2018 signed a four-year, $20 million deal with the Titans to play in tandem with Henry but that scenario did not play out for Lewis. This past season, Henry erupted for 1,540 yards and Lewis was limited to only 54 rushing attempts in 16 games. He was released March 12.
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No role has been discussed with him yet, Lewis said, but it is evident what the Giants want from him. He says his body is “relatively fresh’’ because “obviously I didn’t take too much of a pounding last year,’’ and that “I feel I still can play, can still do the things I’m accustomed to doing, still can make guys miss.’’
Lewis joins a running back group behind Barkley that includes Wayne Gallman, John Hilliman and fullback Eli Penny. General manager Dave Gettleman tried to give Barkley as a rookie a veteran to lean on for guidance, but Jonathan Stewart looked shot and then got hurt. Now, Lewis gets a shot.
“I think we can help make each other better,’’ Lewis said. “Me being a little older guy I got a little bit more experience with some things. He’s a great player. There’s not much he can’t do so I’m looking forward to working with him, competing with him, learning from him, build a great relationship with him so we can make the room better and hopefully make the team better.’’
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