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Backfield emotion

Patriots stalwart Faulk goes on IR, is lost for season

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / September 23, 2010

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FOXBOROUGH — The time for crying is over for Kevin Faulk.

The veteran Patriots running back talked at length yesterday about the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, its impact on him, and his future.

Faulk was placed on injured reserve yesterday, ending his 12th season. He will undergo surgery in about a month, once the swelling has gone down and he has a better range of motion.

Faulk was hurt when he was knocked out of bounds by Jets cornerback Drew Coleman after an 8-yard run in the fourth quarter of last Sunday’s loss.

“When that hit came,’’ said Faulk, snapping his fingers, “it was instant. I knew what it was.’’

Three days after realizing that he had suffered the first major injury of his career, Faulk had ended his pity party, which he said lasted about a day, and now is steeling himself for the difficult road to recovery.

“I’m going to have surgery, rehab my butt off, and from there, see what happens,’’ he said.

As a captain, Faulk plans to remain around the team as much as possible, and he was the first player in the room for the team meeting yesterday morning, according to Fred Taylor.

“I was elected team captain before the season for a reason,’’ Faulk said. “So I’m going to be around here, if guys need me to ask questions, in the meeting room. I feel like that’s what I need to do.’’

He may be around off the field, but replacing him on the field will be no easy task.

“He’s a really special guy,’’ coach Bill Belichick said. “Did a lot of things for us on and off the field. We can go on and on about that; it’s a long list, but he’s a very dependable guy, professional, great teammate, great team player.

“Hopefully we’ll do what he would do, which is be positive, step up, take advantage of those opportunities, however they fall, and have a good week of preparation and be ready to go on Sunday.’’

Tom Brady knows all too well what Faulk has ahead of him.

“He’s been one part of this offense that’s been so dependable for us, and reliable,’’ said the quarterback, who missed almost all of the 2008 season with a similar injury. “There’s nobody like him. He’s such a unique person, a unique talent, a unique spirit about him.

“He always provides great leadership, so it’s a big loss for us.’’

Faulk had a pair of silver crutches tucked behind him in his locker as he talked. At 34, Faulk feels fortunate to have made it this long without a significant physical setback.

“To be able to go through 12 years of playing in the NFL and not have a season-ending injury at the beginning of the season, have an ACL, which I think is the injury most athletes try to avoid, and to be playing football for more than 25 years and not have that happen to you, I would say that’s being blessed,’’ he said.

“And that’s one thing that you look in the back of your head and you weigh that — OK, I’m not dead, I just hurt my knee. I’m going to wake up tomorrow morning.’’

On the play on which he was injured, Faulk knew Coleman was coming, and as he’s seen it replayed on television, he has wondered what he could have done to avoid the hit, one that he had taken dozens of times before. In fact, he said, Jets rookie Kyle Wilson hit him the same way in the first quarter.

As he remained face-down on the Jets’ sideline, he knew something was different, something was wrong. His wife, Latisha, was in the stands at New Meadowlands Stadium, and Faulk said the fact that he was able to walk off the field on his own assuaged her initial concerns.

Over the past couple of days, Faulk has been flooded with calls, texts, and e-mails from players all over the NFL, some he knows and some he doesn’t, all sending along their best wishes.

Each one has helped make a difficult time a little bit easier, and it is gratifying for Faulk, who is respected throughout the league.

“It means a whole lot. That’s what you play the game for,’’ he said. “You play the game to win, but at the same time you play for respect. Respect for you, your teammates, as well as the team you’re playing against, and that’s what you play for.

“Not just as an athlete or a professional football player, that’s what you want as a person — you want that respect because that’s who you are.’’

When Faulk’s mother died five years ago, he returned to the Patriots right after her funeral, saying football was his brace. Now, Latisha and the five children they’re raising — three of their own and a niece and nephew the couple is adopting — and the rest of his family and friends will be his brace as he copes with life without football.

It was Faulk’s son, Kevin III, who first asked his father Monday morning if the injury meant he’d be retiring. But Faulk wouldn’t look that far into the future.

All he will say is that he’s going to rehab and see what happens, and that he has seen reports that his career is over because of this. Those doubters are motivating him, but Faulk acknowledges that other forces — namely, a league lockout — could affect a comeback.

Not heading out to practice yesterday with his teammates as they began preparations for Sunday’s game against the Bills was difficult; arriving at Gillette Stadium an hour later than he normally does was difficult; and watching games he’s unable to play in will be incredibly difficult. But this is Faulk’s reality.

“That’s life,’’ he said. “Sometimes things change. It’s how you react to them that makes you as a person.’’

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com.

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