Among the bright spots provided by the return of New England players in the past couple weeks is the apparent recovery of Kevin Faulk's fractured ankle.
The running back was lost for the year in Week 14 of his rookie campaign when he suffered a broken ankle at Indianapolis. He was placed on injured reserve after the game.
Faulk underwent surgery on his ankle, but he said the injury is nearly healed and he expects to battle for several roles when training camp starts. "I'm just going to compete for everything," Faulk said. "Kick returning, the No. 1 [running back] job, whatever they want me to do, I'll do."
With the release of Terry Allen, the Patriots' starting running back job is open. Right now Faulk, free agent signing Raymont Harris and Derrick Cullors, who was on injured reserve last season, will compete for the position.
Faulk will likely be a third-down and situational back, a role he was seeing success in prior to his injury. He will also be a leading candidate to return kickoffs. In 1999, Faulk returned 39 kicks for an average of more than 24 yards.
Faulk started the year off slowly, averaging just 1.55 yards on his first 20 carries. A high-ankle sprain suffered in the second week of the season hampered him, and he missed Weeks 3-4. In his first four games, Faulk averaged 96 all-purpose yards.
In Week 7 Faulk began to break out. He scored his first career touchdown on a 15-yard run, and he set a personal-best with 238 all-purpose yards. From that point on until his season-ending injury, Faulk averaged more than four yards per carry and 126 all-purpose yards per game.