NFL Rumors: It's Time for New England Patriots' Kevin Faulk to Hang Up His Hat

Jessica Marie@ItsMsJisnerCorrespondent IIApril 13, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JANUARY 31:  Kevin Faulk #33 of the New England Patriots answers questions from the media during Media Day ahead of Super Bowl XLVI against the New York Giants at Lucas Oil Stadium on January 31, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

2012 might be the year for Kevin Faulk to make room for some...younger talent in the New England Patriots backfield. 

He needs to retire. 

According to the Boston Herald's Karen Guregian, the 35-year-old running back will return to the Patriots if they'll have him back for a 14th season, and if not, he'll retire. His career is in the hands of Bob Kraft and the New England brass. They could let him continue, or they could force him to hang it up. 

It's an interesting predicament to be in with one of your franchise's most beloved veterans. 

On Thursday, Faulk told Guregian: 

I'm trying to come back to play. But it's not up to me. It's up to the team and everything, but I am planning on coming back to play, so we'll see what happens. … Everyone says you don't have anything to prove, which I don't. I don't play the game of football to prove anything to anyone. I play the game of football because I love it. 

It's hard for veterans to walk away from the sports they love, especially when Faulk's last season ended on such a sour note with a Super Bowl loss to the Giants. Football is his life, and it has been for almost two decades, dating back to his days at LSU. It's understandably difficult to let it go for good. 

But since 2009, Faulk has played in nine games. He's sustained injuries that threatened to end his career, including an ACL tear at the beginning of the 2010 season and a knee injury that limited him in 2011. 

In the Super Bowl, Faulk was kept off the field as a healthy scratch. Even after returning from injury, he was relegated to third on the depth chart, behind BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead. 

Despite the fact that Green-Ellis walked away in free agency, the Patriots still have time to sign a veteran running back, and Faulk, who will be 36 by the time training camp starts, is not the answer.

He's proven in the last two years that he's not durable enough to withstand the whole season, and in the increasingly competitive AFC East, New England can't afford to risk the efficiency of its running game by putting it on his shoulders.

The Jets—the Patriots' top competition for the division title—had the 13th-best run defense in the nation last year, and they will improve in the draft.

The Patriots need a veteran workhorse, or at least someone who's proven he can stay healthy for the whole season, to successfully go up against that. 

Faulk has been ineffective for too long. In the last two seasons, he's compiled five starts, 25 carries, 102 yards and zero touchdowns.

He's one of the Patriots' most beloved veterans in recent memory, but the team—if it wants to be effective on the ground—needs to move in a different direction and start focusing its efforts on some younger talent. 

Right now, Faulk's legacy is still intact, and the New England faithful still love him. He should just exit on a good note.