The last few years have truly been tough to watch as many New England Patriot greats have hung up their cleats and called it a career.
Troy Brown, the Patriots' all-time leader in receptions, retired prior to the 2008 season.
One year later, Rodney Harrison announced his retirement from football after playing five seasons in New England. Tedy Bruschi, who played his entire career as a Patriot also announced his retirement prior to the 2009 season.
The most recent retirement was announced following the 2010 season when Stephen Neal decided that he too would be walking away from the game.
These four players won a combined 12 Super Bowls in their time with the Patriots and their legacies won't soon be forgotten in and around Foxboro. In fact an additional member may be joining this illustrious group shortly.
Kevin Faulk, 35, who has three Super Bowl rings of his own, is currently debating whether he too has played his last down.
The free agent suffered a torn ACL in the second game of the 2010 season and was placed on the injured reserve shortly after. The Patriots won the lottery with the signing of Danny Woodhead as the youngster stepped right into Faulk's role en route to nearly 1,000 all-purpose yards.
The youth movement is now in full effect in the New England backfield. The Patriots selected two ball carriers in April's draft and the pair of Woodhead and BenJarvus Green-Ellis have combined for only 17 starts in their young careers.
Faulk is participating in Patriots player-organized workouts and the reports on his health have all been positive. He spoke to reporters about some of the difficulties players face during the lockout.
“Everybody is trying to get back into it, nobody is ready to go right now. That’s why everybody is trying to get back into it.”
He later added, “I'm a free agent, but I'm a Patriot for life.”
The problem is there may just not be any room for him this season. The Patriots value Faulk and everything he has helped the franchise accomplish over the last decade, but it would be a bit much for the team to carry six running backs on the active roster.
Expect the team to offer Faulk an invitation to training camp much like they did with Troy Brown if and when the league gets back on schedule, but don't expect Faulk to end up with a contract. This is that awful point in time where the team must move on and Faulk has played in this league long enough to understand that.
His Patriots career is almost surely over, but his legacy as one of the most productive backs in franchise history is only just beginning.