Gillislee reflects on last year’s struggles, what he needs to do to climb depth chart again

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(Adam Richins/Boston Sports Journal)

FOXBOROUGH — It is a new year. A new slate. For everyone, including Mike Gillislee.

There are few people who endured the same sort of seasonal roller coaster as Gillislee did in 2017. A year that opened with him as the No. 1 back and four rushing touchdowns in the first two games ended on a down note, as he suffered injuries and was surpassed on the depth chart down the stretch and into the playoffs. By the time Super Bowl week rolled around, I found him sitting at the back of a ballroom during media availability in the dark, fiddling with his phone by himself and looking like he’d rather be anywhere else other than the center of the sports universe.

But on Thursday, after the first full-padded practice of the summer, Gillislee was back between the tackles, feeling good about himself and his chances again. In goal-line and other drills, he was the first back in the rotation on several occasions during 11-on-11 work, ahead of teammates Rex Burkhead, Sony Michel and James White. Compared to last season, he appeared to have a nice, low pad level, and he showed more decisiveness.

It’s the first week of camp, but the sight of him looking nimble while working as a lead back left him with a smile on his face after the two-hour workout. Gillislee is looking to reset the narrative, and this week represents the start of that conversation.