News like this normally comes via press release. Or a Bill Belichickpress conference. Not from the player himself. Heavens, no.
When it comes to injury reporting, the Patriots stick to their playbook.
That's why it was so remarkable to see what took place in the New England locker room late Wednesday morning. Running back Kevin Faulkarrived at his locker and a swarm of reporters descended upon him.
He knew what they wanted from him, and he delivered. With reports swirling for the previous two days about his status, Faulk put all doubts to rest by announcing that, yes, he had incurred an anterior cruciate ligament tear in his right knee, that he would undergo surgery to repair it in about a month, once the swelling subsided sufficiently, and that his 2010 season was, therefore, officially over.
Three days earlier, in the early stages of the fourth quarter of the Patriots' 28-14 loss to the New York Jets, Faulk took a handoff from quarterback Tom Bradyon a 1st-and-10 play from the New England 16-yard line. He cut to his left and tried to outrun Jets cornerback Drew Colemanto the first-down marker. Coleman dove for Faulk's legs and brought him down two yards short of the sticks. In the process, Coleman may have brought Faulk down for good.
The 34-year-old veteran ball carrier and Patriots co-captain lay on the turf on the Jets sideline for several minutes, with his hands clutching his helmet in obvious agony. After New England's medical staff catered to him for a while, Faulk eventually was able to walk off the field under his own power. He returned to the Patriots bench, where further diagnostic tests were performed. Faulk even got up a couple of times to test out the injury by trotting around, before deciding to remove his pads and call it a day.
On Wednesday, he called it a season. He wasn't quite ready, however, to call it a career just yet.
Faulk admitted to reporters that he "cried a whole lot" in the immediate aftermath of his injury, but that he has since come to terms with it. He added that he knew right away, while walking across the field at New Meadowlands Stadium, that something was seriously wrong, but that he plans to approach his rehab with vigor and "see what happens."
"I'll do what my body tells me," Faulk said. "I've been fortunate to play football for over 20 years without an ACL injury. Like a lot of people tell me, I'm blessed. I'm not upset about it, but, let's say I'm upset for my teammates because we put so much into the offseason and training camp to be a good football team."
Because of his captain status, Faulk insisted that he'll be a fixture in team meetings and the locker room to help out his teammates however he can throughout the remainder of the season. But don't expect to see him on the sidelines anytime soon.
"One thing I can't do," he conceded, "is watch a game I'm not playing in, especially when it's my team."
Nevertheless, the diminutive Faulk will be conspicuous in his absence. The Patriots must now try to fill the significant void his abrupt departure creates. Not only is Faulk relied upon as a third-down receiver out of the backfield, he has also been one of Brady's most effective pass protectors over the past decade. Finding a replacement won't be easy.
"Yeah …very few guys over the years have played as well and consistently at such a high level as Kevin," Brady remarked. "He's been one part of this offense that's been so dependable for us, and reliable. 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.
"We have to move forward, and other guys are going to have to step into those roles that … he was doing back there for us."
Against the Jets, the Patriots thrust veteran running back Sammy Morrisinto Faulk's role for the remainder of that game, and he'll likely be asked to do so going forward, at least for the foreseeable future. Given his size (6-0, 220) and versatility, the 11-year veteran has proven, since joining the Patriots in 2007, that he can be a tailback, fullback, or third-down back in New England's offense in a pinch.
"I'm not Kevin Faulk, per se. In that sense, no one is," Morris reminded reporters, adding, about the third-down responsibilities, "I've done it, but obviously with Kevin, not as much. When coaches were coaching him up, I'm still listening to what's going on, so just like with everybody, you have to be ready."
In a purely coincidental move that could pay immediate dividends, the Patriots signed former Jets running back Danny Woodhead(5-9, 195) the day before they faced New York. The third-year player from Division II Chadron State appears best suited for NFL duty in the third-down capacity.
"Yes, that's exactly what he did [for the Jets]," Belichick affirmed. "He actually made their team as a receiver and played kind of in between receiver and a sub back for the Jets. I'd say that's the type of player he is, yes."
But having just arrived in New England, it will take time for Woodhead to absorb the Patriots offense. How soon, and how well, he'll be able to contribute remains to be seen.
"God has a plan for my life," Woodhead told the New England media on Wednesday, the first time he spoke with them. "I'm going to go with what he gives me. This is what he gave me, and I'm going to do it to the best of my abilities … Right now, I'm focused on whatever I can do here. I'm just trying to find my way on this team."
So, while Woodhead embraces a new beginning, Faulk is left to ponder, perhaps, the end. But Brady, who went through the same trial with his left knee two years ago, isn't convinced that Faulk has played his last snap.
"Kevin will come back from it," he declared. "He's come back from everything in his life. Kevin's a fighter. He's a warrior. It's just about hard work, that's all it is. Kev will do that."
Wed 9/22 Practice Notebook
For news and notes from Wednesday's practice, please visit the PFW Blog.