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Mike Gillislee takes issue with recent demotion

The New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers will square off in a Week 15 game that has huge playoff implications in the AFC.

He started the season with three touchdowns in one game. He now hasn’t played for five straight games.

Patriots running back Mike Gillislee, who signed as a restricted free agent from Buffalo, has been demoted, and he’s not thrilled with it.

“It’s crazy, because just coming here, you just expect to be out there,” Gillislee said Friday, via Kevin Duffy of “Who wouldn’t when you play football? I love football. It’s a coaches’ decision. I just leave it up to the coaches. As far as that, I just go out and I work and compete. That’s all I can do. . . . As far as me being backup, I feel like I shouldn’t, but right now I’m in a situation where I’m not playing. It’s all about how I handle it, and how I handle it is I work ever harder. And I wait for my number to be called.”

His number was called 15 times in Week One against the Chiefs. He gained 45 yards and scored three times. He added 18 carries for 69 yards and another touchdown the following week at New Orleans.

Gillislee got 12, 12, 12, 10, eight, and 11 carries in the next six games. After the bye week, however, he has disappeared, with James White, Dion Lewis, and Rex Burkhead getting the bulk of the work as Gillislee became a healthy inactive for five straight weeks.

Fumbling isn’t the issue; he has dropped the ball only once all year. Whatever caused him to slide in the eyes of coach Bill Belichick, Gillislee is trying to stay positive.

“I’m just lucky to be able to play football and be part of a great program,” Gillislee said. “Just lucky to continue to play football, just be part of a team, even though I would love to be out there each and every day I prepare as if I am.”

His next chance to play will come on Sunday in Pittsburgh. Based on recent history, however, he probably shouldn’t count on wearing anything other than street clothes on the sidelines -- especially since the guys in front of him are all healthy.