Foxborough, Mass. – When the Patriots head into Arizona to face the Cardinals in the second game of the season Sunday, they will again be without the services of running back Kevin Faulk.
Faulk was listed as "Out-Missed Portion of Practice" when the Patriots released their injury report Wednesday, meaning he will miss his second game in as many weeks to start the season. He has remained away from the team following the death of his mother. According to published reports, services were thought to be schedule for early this week.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick would not update Faulk's status during his daily press conference, saying it would be announced in the injury report. Belichick has acknowledged Faulk suffered a knee injury in the Patriots preseason game against Carolina on Aug. 26, classifying the injury as "day-to-day" last week.
The Patriots entered the regular season opener against Indianapolis with just two running backs on the active roster – starter Corey Dillon and reserve Patrick Pass. They added some depth to that mix over the weekend by signing free agent running back Rabih Abdullah, who spent his first four seasons in Tampa Bay before playing with the Chicago Bears last season. Belichick said Abdullah, listed at 6-foot and 220 pounds, played in third-down situations for Chicago but has the skills to play on all four downs.
"He's a good sized back, a real strong and physical guy," Belichick said. "I think that he gives us some versatility in the backfield offensively, and also gives us a player with good special teams experience. We'll try to get him indoctrinated into our system and see what possible role that might have for him in those two areas."
The Patriots also listed wide receiver Troy Brown (knee) as questionable in Wednesday's report, while quarterbacks Tom Brady (shoulder) and Jim Miller (shoulder) were listed as probable. Brown, who missed the season opener against Indianapolis, was injured while returning a punt in the team's third preseason game against Carolina. He was in the locker room Wednesday but did not speak to the media.
The Cardinals also listed four players on the injury report, including wide receiver Anquan Boldin (knee) who is out, linebackers Levar Fisher (knee) and Raynoch Thompson (knee), who are both doubtful, and defensive end Calvin Pace (neck) who is listed as probable.
No Happy Returns
Belichick hasn't had many good things to say about the Patriots return game throughout the preseason and first week of the regular season. The Patriots have struggled on punt returns, in particular, using cornerback Tyrone Poole and wide receiver Deion Branch against the Colts. Poole returned the first punt of the game for six yards, while Branch muffed his only return attempt. Without Brown and Faulk, Belichick said the plan was to use both players on returns depending on the circumstances of the game.
"We had gone into the game planning on the possibility of using both players," Belichick said. "Both guys have done it. We're comfortable with either guy back there."
Belichick said Tuesday that Brown, who handled 29 of the team's 50 punt returns last season, will be in the mix to return punts when he returns from injury.
The Patriots signed second-year safety Curry Burns to the practice squad Wednesday. Burns, who will wear number 41 with the Patriots, was a seventh-round pick by the Houston Texans in the 2003 NFL Draft out of the University of Louisville. … Arizona head coach Dennis Green had heaping praise for New England wide receivers Branch, David Givens, Bethel Johnson and David Patten. "I think that there's nobody in the National Football League that can run with the four guys that they have. So that speed combination gives them a phenomenal offense." … When asked who he would compare Arizona rookie wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald to, Belichick mentioned former Minnesota Viking Cris Carter. "I think he's a real good receiver, with the two elements of any good receiver being a player who can get open and a player who can catch the ball. He has exceptional hands. He's probably similar to a player that coach Green had in Minnesota in Cris Carter in terms of his hands, his coordination and his ball skills. I thought Cris Carter in the course of his career probably had as good of hands as any player I ever saw. That's a lot to say about Fitzgerald at this point, the guy has only played one game, but I would imagine that there are a lot of things there that they saw similar to what they had seen from a player like Carter with the Vikings." … Belichick was candid when asked if players are continually in an evaluation process. "Every time a player steps on the field he gets evaluated. You're in this business to be evaluated, that's what your performance is. It's evaluated on a play-by-play and week-by-week basis for all of us. Anybody that's not looking for that [should] go deliver mail."