It's been nine months since running back Kevin Faulk tore his ACL in the New England Patriots' Week 2 loss against the New York Jets—and it appears the 35 year old is right on track with rehabbing his previously injured knee.
It appeared that Faulk's time was over when the Patriots selected running backs Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley in the draft this past April—but there's still a chance that the team's extremely versatile running back will be back in 2011.
Faulk is not only a great offensive weapon on third-downs in New England's offense, but he's the kind of guy you want in the locker room. Faulk was a member of all three of New England's Super Bowls, as well as being a proven leader that is always willing to mentor younger players.
With the new additions of Vereen and Ridley, along with the emergence of 1,000 yard rusher, BenJarvus Green-Ellis and the team's new "change-of-pace back," Danny Woodhead—New England's backfield may be a bit crowded for the 12 year veteran.
However, in a recent piece done by Mike Reiss of ESPN Boston, he speculates that there is a significant chance that Faulk will be around for another season in New England:
"It's hard to imagine he [Kevin Faulk] won't be re-signed when free agency ultimately begins. His knowledge of the system, coupled with his willingness to be a mentor to rookies like Shane Vereen and Stevan Ridley, adds to his value to the team. A spot on the final roster might not be a certainty, but at the start of training camp, it seems obvious that the Patriots are a better team with Faulk around."
The one thing that Reiss nails dead on it's head is the term value—arguably the most overused word with the New England Patriots.
As Faulk's production may take a hit with his aging body and previous damaged knee, he still brings a lot of value to the table with leadership, knowledge of the system and all around a great teammate.
It's definitely hard to imagine the Patriots playing without Faulk, but there will be a time that Faulk will have to hang up his cleats.
The one thing that I can imagine is that he'll resign with New England once the lockout is lifted.
From there, he'll join the team in training camp and simply go from there. He'll be able to work with the younger guys, while at the same time seeing if he'll still be able to play at a high enough level to compete in the NFL.
If not, this could end up being a similar situation to when linebacker Tedy Bruschi retired in 2009.