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Faulk’s steps still tentative

Rehab proceeds; future uncertain

By Shalise Manza Young
Globe Staff / March 10, 2011

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Nearly six months removed from suffering the first season-ending injury of his career, Patriots running back Kevin Faulk said yesterday he’s taking his recovery one stage a time.

The team’s elder statesman said his right knee — he tore his ACL against the Jets in September — is “coming along, in stages, just like anything else.

“But it’s getting better each and every day.’’

Faulk, 34, has been rehabbing at Gillette Stadium nearly every day and estimates that he’s 70-75 percent recovered.

“That’s my estimate, not the doctors and trainers,’’ he said. “It may not mean anything to them, but to me it means something.’’

Faulk and New England receivers coach Chad O’Shea spent time yesterday at Brigham & Women’s Hospital, visiting with patients who are waiting for heart transplants.

One patient was a very knowledgeable sports fan named Mark.

Mark, a Rhode Island native who studied journalism in college and wants to be a sportswriter, grilled Faulk and O’Shea on everything from Faulk’s rehab to the team’s receivers and the process of evaluating players for the draft.

He also had to know: Had Faulk seen the video of Tom Brady at Carnival in Brazil? The two laughed at Brady’s dancing (in)ability, and Mark called the quarterback’s short ponytail a Steven Seagal hairdo, but added that he can’t joke about Brady too much since he is married to Gisele Bundchen.

Mark, who has been waiting for a transplant for six months, found common ground with Faulk in video games. The two exchanged online gamer tags to play each other in “Call of Duty.’’

After the visits, Faulk intimated that his biggest concern when it comes to rehab is not overdoing things, not taking steps backward after so much progress.

“I’m a running back; I want to run,’’ he said. “And I couldn’t run for a long time. I started running and now I want to run more and explode, but it’s like, ‘calm down, take your time.’ ’’

With the threat of a lockout looming, Faulk could be affected on several levels; for one thing, he could no longer work out at Gillette, so he has made arrangements to return to his home state of Louisiana to continue.

Also, with a lockout, players cannot sign contracts. Faulk will be a free agent when an agreement is made on a new CBA.

All of those things play into his decision on whether to retire.

“I honestly don’t know,’’ said Faulk, who will be 35 in June and has played 12 seasons with the Patriots, “Like my wife tells me, ‘You’re giving me so many different scenarios, so many different feelings about coming back.’

“You want to play, you don’t want to play — it’s just a factor of going out there, seeing how I feel.

“I still love the game of football. That’s one thing: I still love the game of football. It’s just a factor of how my body feels. I’ve got to be real about that.

“I’ve been playing a long time. I’ve been fortunate enough. Is it time to let it go? Is it time to come back? You never know.’’

One thing that won’t be taken into consideration is the emergence of Danny Woodhead as a Faulk-like third-down back. Faulk has a great deal of respect for Woodhead, but both men are competitors looking to help the Patriots any way they can.

Faulk said he “of course’’ is paying attention to the mediated talks between the NFL and the Players Association, and feels that the two sides talking is a positive sign after they didn’t talk for so long.

Shalise Manza Young can be reached at syoung@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @shalisemyoung.

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