Sports

Club set to honor former standout Faulk

KEVIN FAULK
KEVIN FAULKCredit:

FOXBOROUGH — Kevin Faulk, who in his 13 seasons with the Patriots epitomized what it meant to be a third-down back, will announce his retirement Tuesday morning.

Faulk, 36, who was drafted in the second round in 1999 after setting numerous rushing and all-purpose yardage records at Louisiana State, played 161 games for the Patriots and scored 31 touchdowns (16 rushing, 15 receiving).

He tore his right anterior cruciate ligament in Week 3 in 2010 and spent the rest of that season rehabbing for a 2011 campaign in which he played only seven games, and at less than 100 percent. Although he had hoped to be back this season, the team went in a different direction, leading to a quiet and amicable parting of the ways.

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Asked why he decided now was the time to call it a career, the three-time Super Bowl winner said, “I guess knowing that it was around the corner, and understanding that this [ceremony] is something that if it wasn’t going to happen now, it probably wouldn’t happen later.’’

Coach Bill Belichick, who will attend the ceremony at The Hall at Patriot Place along with owner Robert Kraft, declined to comment on Faulk until Tuesday’s official announcement.

Faulk’s impact still can be felt in the locker room.

“More than anything he epitomizes the kind of players that this organization has built its success on,’’ said Matthew Slater, a team captain. “He’s a guy who’s been unselfish over the course of his career and really stepped up in big moments. But he was a huge role player and he became a star as a role player. He made plays for this team, time after time, and in big clutch situations.’’

Faulk made the Patriots’ 50th anniversary team as a return specialist and retires as the franchise’s all-time leader in all-purpose yards (12,349), return yards (5,041), and kick return yards (4,098).

But it was on third down when Faulk always seemed to deliver.

“I thought he was one of the best to ever do it, as far as third-down backs are concerned,’’ Slater said. “He could run it, he could catch it, he could do it all. When I think of third-down back, I think of Kevin Faulk.’’

Asked why Faulk thrived in that role, Slater said, “I thought he was very unselfish. He had the talent to be a featured back, [but] he embraced his role and he really worked at it and he wanted to do what he could to help contribute to this team. He did just that.

“Not to mention the great skills he had as far as catching the ball out of the backfield, and being able to run draws and run inside and outside. He was a great back.’’

Faulk’s 13 seasons tied him with Mosi Tatupu as the longest-tenured running back in franchise history. Three years ago, he earned the Ron Burton Community Service Award, presented annually to the player who makes the greatest contributions on and off the field and in the community.

Fans are welcome to attend Faulk’s announcement. From 10 a.m. until noon, The Hall will donate half of each patron’s admission fee to a charity of Faulk’s choosing.

Asked if he was looking forward to the ceremony, Faulk said, “I am. It’s one of those things, you understand, you knew this time was going to come, but you never understood how close the time was.’’

Belichick mea culpa

Although there was plenty to feel good about in the aftermath of Sunday’s victory over the Broncos, Belichick Monday offered a harsh self-criticism for his handling of a botched third-and-goal call from the Denver 1 just before halftime.

Even though the Patriots converted 11 of 17 third-down attempts, Belichick seemed bothered by the opportunity lost just before the half when Von Miller tackled Brandon Bolden for a 4-yard loss as the Patriots tried to execute a hurried third-and-1 run out of the no-huddle offense.

That after Bolden was held to a 1-yard gain on second and goal from the Denver 2.

The Patriots wound up having to take their third and final timeout of the half with six seconds remaining and settle for a 23-yard field goal by Stephen Gostkowski and a 17-7 halftime lead.

“I could have done a better job with that,’’ Belichick said. “The whole situation — the play, the whole thing — it wasn’t a great personal highlight for me.’’

Right after Sunday’s game, Belichick had defended a botched play in the fourth quarter on a fourth-and-5 attempt from the Denver 37 that resulted in a strip-sack of quarterback Tom Brady, a recovery by Nate Solder at the Patriots 43, and a turnover on downs.

Six plays later, Peyton Manning found Brandon Stokley with a 5-yard TD pass that cut New England’s lead to 31-21 with 6:43 remaining.

“Trying to pick it up,’’ Belichick said then when asked about his decision to go for it on fourth down. “It was too long for a field goal. The ball was on the 30-whatever yard line, so we were just trying to pick up the first down.’’

Pressed further on why he opted not to punt, Belichick said, “Because we didn’t have very far to go. We would have gained some yardage if we punted it, possibly, depending on how good the punt was. We would have had to protect it and [all] that. I thought we had a good chance to pick it up there, we just didn’t do a good job on it.’’

A real handful

Belichick said after Sunday’s game there were a “handful’’ of negative plays that could use improvement. “Offensively, we had about four penalties, we had four negative runs, four sacks, and we had a couple of fumbles and we lost one of them,’’ he said. “There were a couple of other times where the ball came out. Defensively, we had one run over 10 yards and about six passes over 10 yards. Kickoff return, we had one penalty there. We had one penalty in the kicking game, we had a penalty where we had a return out past the 30-yard line. I don’t think any of those were backbreaking plays, but they were plays where we’d like to play better, so let’s start with those.’’ . . . Sunday’s win over the Broncos earned a 37.6 television rating, the Patriots’ highest of the season.

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