Foxborough, Mass. – Just more than a week after he returned to the Patriots following the death of his mother, running back Kevin Faulk spoke publicly for the first time Wednesday about his two-week hiatus from the team.
Faulk left the team following its third preseason game on Aug. 28 to return home to Louisiana and tend to his ailing mother, Vivian, who passed away the following week. Faulk, who called his mother "the most important person in his life," said he felt the support of his teammates and was appreciative of the time he was able to spend with his family.
"When my mom was sick, I was going to be down there," Faulk said. "Coach [Bill] Belichick, being the coach that he is, he was like "However much time you need to be down there with your family, or whatever you need, I grant you that.' That just goes to show how much class the organization has."
Faulk missed the teams' final preseason game and the first two regular season games, but said he was able to keep up with the team from afar.
"I watched every last game that they played," Faulk said. "That was very frustrating, but the circumstances had me where I had to be home. So that was it. That's what she wanted, and we knew it since she was die-hard Patriots fan. There was nothing that we did that was a disrespect to her."
As is often the case when a loved one passes away, Faulk said his experiences during his time away from the team made football seem very small in comparison.
"Very, very small," Faulk explained. "At the same token, I knew what was going to get me out of it, and that was football."
In addition to the personal matters, Faulk is also dealing with a knee injury he sustained against the Panthers. Because he was listed as out for "personal reasons" on the team's official injury report, the extent of the injury is not known. Belichick wouldn't initially characterize the injury in the days following the game other than to say Faulk was "day-to-day." Faulk was equally vague Wednesday, saying the knee felt "pretty good" although he wasn't sure he would be able to play if the Patriots had a game this week.
"I'm not sure," Faulk said. "If I was a doctor, I probably would be working at some hospital right now, but I'm not sure. I'm doing my best right now to get better each day. Whatever happens, it happens. Right now I'm day-to-day. I'm just trying to get better each day."
Faulk, who briefly tested the free agent market during the offseason before signing a six-year, $15 million contract, has spent his entire six-year career with the Patriots since he was a second-round draft choice in 1999. His absence – on and off the field – has been noted by teammates.
"I've been here with Kevin since the day I started," Tom Brady said. "Kevin is a big-time playmaker for us. Every time his hands are on the ball something good happens. It's going to be great to have him out there. I think everyone is excited to have Kevin back in the locker room, back working out and doing everything he can to get back on the field. He's got a great attitude. I think Kevin really enjoys being here, and I think we all enjoy having Kevin around."
Bye Week Banter
Belichick said during his daily press conference Wednesday that the team would have a dual-focus during its current bye week, namely concentrating on improvement from its first two games and beginning preparation for the Buffalo Bills on Oct. 3. The team would normally spend its bye week – which for many teams will come later in the season – going through a self-scouting and analysis process teams typically reserve for bye weeks. The early bye all but eliminates that process, changing the teams' emphasis this week.
"It's all about getting better," Belichick said. "Where we're playing now isn't going to be good enough. Every team in the league is getting better. That's what September and October are for – the proverbial mid-season form. I don't think anybody is in it yet. We have to take advantage of this week; and rather than make it an analysis week make it an improvement week."
The early bye week presents challenges for the players as well. While a mid-season bye week typically presents an opportunity for much needed rest and time to spend with family, the Patriots will instead face 14 consecutive games to close out the regular season.
"It happens to be on the third week, and that's something we just have to deal with," Rodney Harrison said. "It puts pressure on you because you're forced to try and stay healthy and try to go 14 games in a row, which is tough in the National Football League. That's what they gave us, and that's what we have to deal with."
Vote of Confidence
Statistically speaking, two-time Pro Bowl defensive end Richard Seymour has flown under the radar during the first two weeks of the regular season. Seymour, who was fourth on the team with 80 tackles last season to go along with eight sacks, registered six total tackles in the season opener and just one against Arizona last week. The Patriots have six sacks this season, including five against Arizona, with none coming from Seymour. Belichick dismissed any talk that Seymour's play has slipped this season.
"Richard is our best lineman and he's playing well," Belichick said. "His production will come. And if it doesn't come, then everybody else needs to [contribute]. In our defense, when the opportunity comes you count on all the players to make the plays. Not everyone gets the same number of opportunities every week. Sometimes that changes. When we play well defensively as a team, which I thought we did a pretty good job of in the Arizona game, really everybody was doing a pretty good job. If they hadn't been, then we wouldn't have been that successful."
The Patriots signed cornerback Earthwind Moreland and wide receiver Cedric James to the practice squad Wednesday. Moreland was originally signed as a free agent on Aug. 5 and spent training camp with the team before he was released when the team cut down to its 53-man roster on Sept. 3. He played in all four preseason games for the Patriots and is a veteran of two NFL Europe seasons. James, a fourth-year receiver out of Texas Christian University, spent 2003 on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad and spent the 2004 preseason with the team before being released on Aug. 31. The team subsequently released cornerback Christian Morton and wide receiver Michael Jennings from the practice squad. … Various Patriots continue to find new ways to dismiss the team's current 17-game winning streak, the latest coming from Harrison. "I think you guys put more emphasis on the winning streak than we do. It's Week 3, and who cares about a winning streak? The only thing that matters is where we are at the end of the season. Winning streaks are good for papers. You can rip up that paper, throw it away, and forget all about it. Who cares? It's only game number three. We're not concerned about a winning streak." … Thanks to a career-high 118 receiving yards from David Givens and 158 rushing yard from Corey Dillon in Sunday's win over Arizona, the Patriots had a 100-yard rusher and receiver in the same game for the first time since 1997. The last such occasion came against Minnesota on Nov. 2, 1997, when Curtis Martin ran for 104 yards and Shawn Jefferson had 108 receiving yards. … Brady said he would spend his off-day Sunday watching football. "I'll probably be watching as many as I can. I love watching. I think it's the only opportunity we're going to have for awhile, so I'll probably try to catch up on some of the ones that I missed last week."