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PHOENIX — Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said injuries played a factor in why new Patriots running back Rex Burkhead didn’t get as many opportunities as he would have liked in Cincinnati.

Burkhead, who signed a one-year, $3.15 million free agent deal with New England, has been a standout special teamer and showed flashes at running back last season, including a 119-yard game in Week 17.

“A lot of the times when Rex got opportunities to play, he wasn’t quite 100 percent, so that kind of limited him some,’’ said Lewis, acknowledging that Burkhead also was behind Jeremy Hill and Gio Bernard on Cincinnati’s depth chart.


“Even in preseason opportunities and so forth where he’d go into the games and it would be Rex’s ballgame to carry the ball in the first and second quarter and he wasn’t able to suit up, and that’s one of the things he’s battled over the years is being 100 percent completely healthy.’’

Burkhead’s success last season didn’t surprise Lewis (“It’s why we drafted him”), and the coach predicted he’d fit in well in New England.

“He’s a hard-working guy who always wants to be out there,” said Lewis.

In addition to Burkhead, the Patriots have Dion Lewis, James White, and D.J. Foster on their roster at running back.

Praise for Allen

Colts coach Chuck Pagano was extremely complimentary of tight end Dwayne Allen, whom he shipped to New England with a sixth-round pick in exchange for a fourth-rounder.

Allen, who made $11.9 million last season, the first year of a four-year, $29.4 million pact, is known as a crushing blocker.

“I think we lost a great player in Dwayne,” said Pagano. “He’s been a staple in our offense for the last five years. We came in together in 2012, so they ‘regetting a really good football player, getting a really great person, and a guy that’s going to be excellent in that locker room.


“He’ll buy in. He’s going to do his job. We hate to lose Dwayne but it’s the National Football League and he understands that and we understand that.’’

Allen, 27, had 35 receptions for 406 yards and 6 touchdowns last season. For his career, he has 126 catches for 1,451 yards, and 19 TDs.

Pagano also weighed in on a couple of ex-Patriots he brought on board in defensive lineman Jabaal Sheard and linebacker Barkevious Mingo.

“We [evaluated] Jabaal when he was coming out [of college] and Jabaal’s played in similar systems, so terminology-wise and scheme-wise, he’s a great fit for us,’’ said Pagano. “He’s a great edge setter. Strong at the point [of attack]. He can rush the passer and we feel like his best football is ahead of him.”

Pagano envisions a bigger role on defense for Mingo, who played mainly on special teams in New England.

“I think we can carve out a role for him,’’ he said. “He’s a big, long athletic guy that can really run.”

Their kind of guy

New England’s signing of Lawrence Guy kind of slipped under the radar with the acquisitions of some bigger names (wide receiver Brandin Cooks and cornerback Stephon Gilmore) but John Harbaugh said Patriots fans should expect big things from their new defensive lineman. “The Patriots are getting a blue-collar, undervalued guy around the league,” said the Ravens coach, who had Guy in Baltimore for three seasons. “Don’t sleep on Lawrence Guy. Don’t underestimate this player. He’s a really good football player, run and pass. I love him to death. Every time I see him, he gives me this big, giant Lawrence Guy hug. He’s a great guy and he’s going to be a leader in the locker room. I think it was a great signing by the Patriots.”


Covering everything

The Patriots inquired about the availibility of Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman before they signed Stephon Gilmore, the NFL Network reported. Former NFL executive Michael Lombardi, now working for the Ringer, said earlier this month that Sherman, perhaps the game’s best cornerback, was available “for the right deal.” . . . Browns coach Hue Jackson on his team being linked with trade rumors regarding Patriots quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo: “I can’t comment on anybody else’s players on another team. Certainly not in this forum.” . . . Panthers coach Ron Rivera said for defensive lineman Kony Ealy to be successful in New England, he really needs to do just one thing. “I think basically more than anything else is to just really do what he’s told,’’ said Rivera. “Being around a program like the one Coach [Bill] Belichick has established in New England will be really good for him.’’ Rivera said the opportunity to get a second-round pick from New England was too good to let slip. “He hasn’t quite truly tapped his potential,’’ Rivera said of Ealy. “He’s showed it. He flashed it in Super Bowl 50. If they can get him back to that point, they’ll have a very explosive pass rusher.’’ . . . Belichick continued his tour of the Sunshine State Wednesday, popping up at Miami’s Pro Day for some scouting.


Jim McBride can be reached at james.mcbride@globe.com