Mike Gillislee’s New England Patriots debut Friday night was but one step in the ongoing process of getting the running back up to speed, Patriots coach Bill Belichick said Saturday.
Speaking in a conference call with reporters one day after New England’s 30-28 preseason win over the Detroit Lions, Belichick tempered the hype surrounding Gillislee, who scored a touchdown on his first snap as a Patriot after missing the first two preseason games with a hamstring injury.
“We were able to get Mike a few carries and a few plays in the game,” Belichick said. “I think he still has quite a ways to go. He has missed some practices this (summer) and missed some practices last spring. He’s worked hard to stay on top of things and to stay caught up, and we’ve worked hard to catch up, but we still have some ground to make up.”
Gillislee declared himself “100 percent” healthy after returning to practice earlier this week, and he delivered a few highlights Friday night. He took his first handoff into the end zone for a 1-yard touchdown run, scored on the ensuing two-point conversion and later ripped off a 27-yard rush up the middle, picking up a few key blocks as he sped through the Detroit defense.
That run was by far Gillislee’s longest of the night, and he totaled just 11 yards on his other seven carries.
“We gained some ground (Friday) with his opportunity to play against Detroit,” Belichick said. “So we’ll continue to keep pushing through it.”
Gillislee and fellow running backs Rex Burkhead, Dion Lewis and James White all are locks to make the Patriots’ 53-man roster, but it remains unclear how the team will divvy up touches between the four in Week 1. It will be interesting to see whether any of them take the field against the New York Giants in Thursday’s preseason finale.
Roster bubble backs D.J. Foster, Brandon Bolden and LeShun Daniels all should see considerable playing time against the Giants.
Thumbnail photo via Raj Mehta/USA TODAY Sports Images