Patriots running back Rhamondre Stevenson performs a field drill during an offseason workout Tuesday in Foxborough, Mass. Steven Senne/Associated Press

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Rhamondre Stevenson emerged as the Patriots’ lead option in the backfield last season over Damien Harris, who seemed to lose his top role early in the season and never reclaimed it after catching the injury bug late in the year.

Going into this season, though, there’s no question.

Harris is gone after signing with the rival Bills in free agency, meaning Stevenson is the unquestioned leader of the Patriots’ running back group. After a strong second season, when he had 1,040 rushing yards, the third-year back seems ready for the responsibility that comes with that. The 25-year-old is trying to be more of a leader in the running back room. And he wants to be counted on to produce for the Patriots on a weekly basis.

“That’s what’s being asked of me right now,” Stevenson said of his blooming leadership after the Patriots’ OTA session on Tuesday. “I’m trying to take that step. It’s still early, but I’m trying to take that step to be a leader.”

As the Patriots start their early work and preparation for the upcoming season here in June and with minicamp set for next week, Stevenson said his conditioning has been a focus.

“Just getting in shape again, just getting my wind back,” Stevenson said. “Damien’s out of here now so I’m kind of the guy, so just trying to make sure I’m ready for the end of the season.”

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That’s key for Stevenson, who shouldered a heavy workload last season with 279 touches, which ranked tied for 10th in the NFL among running backs. He admitted toward the end of last season that he was feeling that load a bit. With that experience under him, he knows how to prepare for what should be potentially an even heavier season in 2023.

“”I’d just say the same thing I was doing, just more consistency,” Stevenson said. “Just doing the same thing every day, just taking care of my body and just trying to be proactive. …

“It’s just a long season. You just have to mentally prepare for that long season. That’s the best thing you can do, just mentally prepare, just know that it’s a 17-game season and have to get after it.”

BROWNS: Coach Kevin Stefanski expressed relief that two of his defensive players were not physically harmed while being robbed at gunpoint by six masked men outside a downtown nightclub.

According to Cleveland Police, the players had jewelry and a truck taken during the early morning stickup.

Police redacted the names of the players in a field case report. However, a person familiar with the situation identified the players as cornerback Greg Newsome II and tackle Perrion Winfrey. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.

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After Tuesday’s workout, Stefanski said he has spoken to Chief Wayne Drummond.

“I’m glad our guys are OK,” he said. “I want all of our community to be safe. The Cleveland Police have been outstanding. We want everybody to be safe and we want to get violent people off of our streets.”

According to the report, one of the players was returning to his truck in a parking lot at 3:30 a.m. Monday when the masked suspects jumped out of a car and robbed him of jewelry before fleeing in his vehicle. The player told police he was not injured.

BILLS: What was once routine for Damar Hamlin, such as pulling on a helmet and heading out to practice, has become something the Buffalo Bills’ safety celebrated with a phone call to his parents.

That was the case last week, GM Brandon Beane said on Tuesday, after Hamlin participated fully in practice for the first time in the six months since having a near-death experience during a game at Cincinnati.

“Just so proud of him and thrilled for where he’s at in his journey,” Beane said.

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“He’s still got more milestones to hit. But to think back, we’re just at the beginning of June, and that was the beginning of January, and we were just hoping he’d live,” he added. “Now he’s not only got a normal life, but we’re talking about playing not just any football, but NFL football.”

The Bills’ practice on Tuesday was the first in which reporters were allowed to see Hamlin don his helmet and take part in various team drills.

Beane said, Hamlin enjoyed his first full session on May 31, in a practice that was closed to reporters, after which the player called his parents in Pittsburgh.

Hamlin had previously been limited to taking part in individual drills and the stretching portions of practice since the Bills’ series of spring voluntary sessions opened on May 22. The 25-year-old has made it his objective to resume his football career after going into cardiac arrest and needing to be resuscitated on the field after making what appeared to be a routine tackle during a game against the Bengals on Jan. 2.

JETS: Aaron Rodgers threw some pretty passes at practice. Cameras clicked. Reporters tweeted.

Relax, Jets fans. All is right again.

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Rodgers participated in practice for the first time in front of the media after a strained calf kept him out of the sessions the past two weeks when reporters were in attendance.

“There’s been some ‘wow’ moments,” Coach Robert Saleh said. “I’m sure there will be a heck of a lot more.”

The 39-year-old Rodgers, acquired by New York from Green Bay in April, tweaked his right calf during warm-ups on May 23 — the first practice open to reporters since the trade. He was mostly a spectator last Tuesday when the media returned, spending time with trainers and on the stationary bike before throwing some passes on the side.

Rodgers got back on the field last Friday, and has been practicing since. The four-time NFL MVP still isn’t a full participant just yet, though. He’s doing everything — drills, 7-on-7s, two-minute plays, red zone — except for 11-on-11 team drills.

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