Today the New England Patriots said goodbye to one of the greats of their franchise history. A few hours ago, at a press conference at the Hall at Patriot Place, Kevin Faulk announced his retirement. So after 13 seasons, all with the Patriots, he ends his career having proven himself one of the best and most clutch running backs of all-time.
Patriots owner Robert Kraft and head coach Bill Belichick both spoke glowingly of Faulk, who was part of three championships, while competing in five Super Bowls. He leaves as the team’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards (12,349) and return yards (5,041).
“It’s truly been an honor to have the opportunity to coach you and to be on the team with you,” said Belichick, who pointed to the 60-plus game balls awarded to Faulk during his time. ”He’s the ultimate team player.”
Belichick also spoke about the 2008 season, when Tom Brady was injured, and the leadership role Faulk took on, and how that, in his mind, was the running back’s most “impressive season.”
Earlier, during a video tribute, both Brady and Vince Wilfork were highlighted, providing their thoughts on the running back.
“He’s one of the greatest teammates I’ve ever had,” said Brady. ”No one was more clutch than Kevin.”
Wilfork added: “He’s probably one of the best guys to ever be in the locker room when it comes down to a person, not just football.”
He’s the longest-tenured running back in franchise history, but he was so much more than the position designation suggests. Starting his NFL career in a Patriots era of underachievers, he proved himself to be anything but. He retires at age 35 as the Patriots’ all-time leader in all-purpose yards (12,349), kickoff-return yards (5,041) and is fifth in rushing yards (3,607) and receptions (431). All of these numbers offer a clue to his extraordinary versatility, but they don’t come close to doing the player justice.
The Patriots have had better players than Faulk, but very few who were better at what they were asked to do. It seemed like every other 5-yard run came on a pivotal third-and-4 situation in which he deked on a linebacker to get that extra yard, and every 8-yard catch happened when they needed seven crucial yards late in the third quarter. He earned those yards, his choppy steps and endless array of dekes compensating for his lack of breakaway speed (he supposedly ran a 4.57 40-yard dash at the combine, which was undoubtedly slower than many linebackers he’d eventually leave in the dust).
Faulk was smart, shifty, and clutch, and a player of his size had no business being such an effective blocker, especially on blitz pickup. Yet he wasn’t always like that. If you think about it, he stands as a lesson in being patient with a young player. Early in his career, he was not trustworthy with the football, fumbling nine times in his first 27 games, including six times in Belichick’s first season here, 2000. In 2001, it was J.R. Redmond who was the Snow Bowl and Super Bowl hero in the role of third-down back, and in 2002 at least one certain idiot columnist suggested Faulk should be cut after he failed to pursue a fumble in a loss to the Packers.
Instead, he stuck around, stopped giving the ball away, found and excelled in his various niches, and became essential, rushing for a career-high 638 yards in 2003 while also catching 48 passes for 440 yards for the Super Bowl champs. It was his finest season, though many more fine ones followed. He was an integral part of the Patriots in the modern era and he will be sorely missed.
Here’s some of Kevin Faulk’s highlights:
Thanks for reading,