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Patriots Notebook: Dion Lewis on track to return Sunday vs. Seahawks

November 11, 2016 GMT

FOXBORO — The Patriots are ready to brush off their human joystick.

Running back Dion Lewis is on track to make his season debut Sunday against the Seahawks, according to a source. To drive home that point, the Patriots released running back Tyler Gaffney yesterday, so they have room on the 53-man roster to activate Lewis from the physically unable to perform list, which they must do by 4 p.m. tomorrow.

The Patriots have held out hope since last week that Lewis could be activated in time for this game, but he needed to show consistent progress leading up to the Super Bowl XLIX rematch. Things have gone according to plan, so Lewis is expected to be back on the field.

Lewis had 49 carries for 234 yards, 36 catches for 388 yards and four offensive touchdowns in seven games last season before tearing his ACL on Nov. 8. He also needed surgery this summer to repair a fractured patella, and the Patriots wanted to make sure Lewis could rebuild the muscles around his knees to prevent further injury.

Since everything has looked promising over the past couple weeks, they’re ready to make the move.

Mended Branch

Defensive tackle Alan Branch didn’t sound the least bit concerned when discussing his back injury.

Branch first appeared on the injury report Wednesday, but he put himself through the ringer during yesterday’s workout and lived to tell about it.

“Yeah man, I’m good,” Branch said. “I’m good, went out there started hitting, felt pretty good, felt loose. I can’t complain.”

Branch, a dark horse Pro Bowl candidate, has been a force on the interior of the line with a team-best eight run stuffs along with a sack, forced fumble, drawn holding penalty and three quarterback pressures. So there was reason to be alarmed when the 31-year-old debuted on the injury report on the heels of a bye week, but Branch quickly brushed it off as no big deal.

He said he was “not at all” concerned with his status for Sunday’s game.

“I went out there and practiced with the guys, tried to make sure every position I’d be put in was fine. Everything felt good,” Branch said. “I think it was a quick little deal. Nothing serious.”

Brotherly shove

Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett warned the Seahawks, and they didn’t listen.

Bennett’s brother, Seahawks defensive end Michael Bennett, included him on a group text with Seattle’s defensive linemen over the summer. Martellus Bennett asked to be removed at the start of the season, but it sounds like that didn’t go as planned.

So now, with their numbers in his phone, Bennett is using it to his advantage. He has strategically plotted out times to annoy Seahawks sack leader Cliff Avril.

“I text Cliff, and I kind of mess with him a little bit, slow him down or whatever, try to distract them when they’re in meetings because the time is different there,” the Pats’ Bennett said. “So I try to text them at certain periods of time when I know he’s at work.”

Martellus Bennett is close with a number of Seahawks through his brother, which shows how tightly knit the NFL community can be during the offseason. As for Michael Bennett, he still isn’t ready to play this week after having knee surgery last month, but Martellus is hardly disappointed. After all, Michael Bennett has 37.5 sacks since 2012, so he’d be an impediment to a Patriots victory.

“Mike’s a hell of a player,” Martellus Bennett said. “It’s always fun playing against — well, it’s not fun, actually. I hate playing against my brother because we’re actually brother-in-lawing there. I guess it’s brothering, I guess, because we’re not in-laws. You always want your brother to be healthy and you don’t want him to be hurt. You always root for him to be well, do well, but not this week.

“You want him to be, ‘Hey, I don’t want you to go out there and do terrible, but I don’t want you to go out there and be great, either.’ It’s like, ‘Find a way to be a C-average student like you were growing up.’ But he’s not there. I know he wants to be out there. He never wants to miss a game. He wants to be out there with his teammates and everything. I’m super proud. He’s the ultimate big brother. He’s always been proud of me and I just go out there and try to make him proud as well when I go out there and play.”