FOXBORO, Mass. — Mike Gillislee made his long-awaited return to the New England Patriots’ lineup this past Sunday, seeing action against the Buffalo Bills after spending the previous six weeks as a healthy scratch.
The running back played just 15 offensive snaps in the Patriots’ 36-17 victory at Gillette Stadium but made the most of them, carrying the ball six times for 28 yards and a touchdown and also catching one pass — his first of the season — for 15 yards.
Even as Gillislee languished on the inactive list, Patriots coach Bill Belichick always praised the 27-year-old for his work ethic and professionalism. That trend continued Wednesday.
“Mike’s been great,” Belichick said in his morning news conference. “Mike works really hard. In practice, sometimes when he’s — well, all the time, really — when he’s running the other teams’ plays — because we don?t have any practice squad backs on our roster, so our backs run the other team’s plays — he gives us a great look on whoever those backs are. And I know every day, every week, when he gets his opportunities, he’s ready to go.”
Gillislee was recognized as a Patriots practice player of the week twice during his month and a half on the bench.
Fellow Patriots back Dion Lewis, who rushed for a career-high 129 yards against the Bills, praised Gillislee after the game, calling him a “great person” who “handles things the right way.” Belichick concurred.
“He?s alert, attentive and makes the most out of (his opportunities),” the coach said. “I would 100 percent second everything that Dion said. He?s been a great teammate, and he?s done everything that he can to help the team in whatever capacity he?s been asked to do it in.”
It will be interesting to see what Gillislee’s role looks like in Sunday’s regular-season finale against the New York Jets. His activation for the Buffalo game came after running backs Rex Burkhead and James White were ruled out with injuries, and it remains unclear whether either of those players will be healthy enough to suit up this weekend.