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Patriots Losing More Than A Player In Kevin Faulk

If you judge a player solely on numbers, then you wouldn't give 34-year-old Kevin Faulk a second look. Faulk appears to be nothing more than a middle-of-the-road back who has tagged along for the ride. Yet that couldn't be further from the truth.

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If you judge a player solely on numbers, then you wouldn't give 34-year-old Kevin Faulk a second look.

During his 12-year career, Faulk has 3,550 yards and 16 scores on the ground to go along with 3,667 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns.

A lifelong Patriot (and as a result, a three-time Super Bowl champion), Faulk has never rushed for more than 1000 yards in a single season (and it's not close, either, with his career best being 638 in 2003).

To the untrained eye, Faulk appears to be nothing more than a middle-of-the-road back who has tagged along for the ride with coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

Yet that couldn't be further from the truth.

For 12 consecutive years, Faulk has given his all to Robert Kraft and this franchise. Season after season, we've seen the same mantra from Faulk. He shows up. He works hard. He gets knocked around. But more importantly, he gets the job done.

He's the original Wes Welker, but with three rings. You'll never see Faulk going off on extended contract rants (a la Randy Moss) and rarely see him getting into trouble off the field.

Faulk has done it all for the Pats over the years. He's carried the ball, caught passes, returned kicks, played defense and has even completed two passes for 21 yards.

He possesses a rare gift that only a select few players have. It's the reason he's been able to stick around for over a decade in a league where the average career of a running back is three years.

In short, he is a winner.

With that in mind, it's made it all the more difficult to see the Patriots' longest tenured player go down with what is reported to be a season-ending ACL tear in his right knee, suffered during the fourth quarter of Sunday's 28-14 loss to the Jets at New Meadowlands Stadium.

Now, Belichick is down another running back after trading Laurence Maroney to Denver last week, Brady is without his ace in the hole and Faulk is left wondering if this is the end.

During Faulk's absence, 11-year veteran Sammy Morris and third-year back BenJarvus Green-Ellis are expected to see more time in the backfield on third down.

At this point, Morris appears to have the upper hand on Green-Ellis, as reported by Mike Reiss of ESPNBoston.com.

Morris made himself comfy in New England during the 2008-09 season, carrying the ball 156 times for career highs in yards (727) and touchdowns (7). In four seasons with the Patriots, Morris has totaled 1,432 rushing yards on 315 carries and 12 touchdowns

While Morris isn't a bad option, he doesn't bring with him the swagger that Faulk does. Coach Belichick, Brady and the Patriots will surely miss his leadership on the field and his ability to convert on third down.

Yet after Sunday's injury, one can only wonder if that was the last time we will ever see Faulk in a Patriots uniform. In the end, it will be up to Faulk, a free agent next season, to decide whether or not it's time for him to hang up his cleats.

Patriots management, players and fans alike will certainly welcome him back with open arms next fall, but everyone reaches a point where there is no longer gas in the tank.

Hopefully Faulk isn't at the point.