FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England Patriots running back Mike Gillislee had been respectfully declining media interviews in recent weeks, knowing that the topic would be his slide down the depth chart. But that all changed Friday.
Gillislee, who signed a two-year, $6.4 million contract with the Patriots in the offseason, welcomed multiple reporters at his locker for a series of one-on-one interviews.
He fielded all questions about losing his top spot on the depth chart to Dion Lewis. He has been a healthy scratch for four straight games starting Nov. 12 in Denver; he missed Monday’s loss in Miami because of a stomach illness.
Asked if he is disappointed, Gillislee said, “Yeah, of course, I love football. This is why I work hard in the offseason and camp, for times like this. As far as where things are right now, all I can do is just focus and remain humble.”
Gillislee called his absence a “coach’s decision.” It’s obvious that some of the thinking on the part of the coaching staff is based on special-teams contributions. The team is dressing four running backs on game days, with Lewis and Rex Burkhead the top two traditional options, James White the “passing back” and Brandon Bolden a core special-teams player who is an emergency backfield option in the event of injury.
With Lewis (kickoff returner) and Burkhead (punt return/punt rush, kickoff coverage) also playing on special teams and Gillislee not having a big role in the kicking game, it hurts his chances of being on the 46-man game-day roster.
“It’s not easy, I can tell you that,” Gillislee said when asked how he has been handling things. “I’m a team player and I’ve always put my team first. I’m not going to be a distraction. I’m just going to work harder, because whatever it is, it’s me.”
He hasn’t questioned himself as to why he has lost his spot.
“It could be a multitude of reasons,” Gillislee said. “God always has a plan for everybody. My job is to continue to work hard. I’m not going to give up, I’ll tell you that. I’m going to continue to grind and keep my faith.
“I just work harder each and every week. That’s the mindset after each and every game. I have to work harder and just try to do whatever I can to get back on the field; for whatever reason, I’m not.”