Curran: When it mattered, reliable Faulk was ready

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Curran: When it mattered, reliable Faulk was ready

Among active NFL players, Kevin Faulk is 25th in rushing attempts, 26th in receptions, 27th in yards from scrimmage and 10th in all-purpose yards.

Hes 99th in NFL history in terms of career touches and chances are hell drop to 100th on September 9 when the Vikings Adrian Peterson gets his 18th touch in Minnesotas season opener.

Faulk hopes his NFL career isnt over but, at 36, it probably is. The Patriots roster has running backs stacked up like firewood and the unsigned Faulk is going to be hard-pressed to unseat any of them. He wont sign anywhere else.

Faulks final career numbers will paint him as a very good utility back. The punt returns, catches out of the backfield, kickoff returns and rushing attempts all stacked together makes it look like Faulk was a real nice player.

But he has been more than that. And before the Patriots fully flip to preparing for 2012, closing the book on 2011 means also closing the book on Kevin Faulk, the most successful third-down back in NFL history.

Greatest doesnt fit. Neither does most explosive or most versatile. All those things are too subjective. But when one says successful, measurables are entered into the conversation. Statistics. Championships. Years served.

And those are the things that set Faulk apart from the other electrifying players who served in similar roles.

You talk about a guy who can perform under pressure and Kevin Faulk is at the top of the list, Tom Brady told me last week. Seems to me when you measure great players its when the going gets tough. The mental toughness, the ability to persevere. Kevin worked his tail off. He was always undersized, he was always a guy that people said couldnt be (an impact) player. He had opportunities. He had opportunities taken away from him. But he never pointed the finger at anyone else. He worked harder and put himself back in a position to be effective.

There are a lot of brilliant third-down backs (multi-purpose ballhandlers might fit better but seven syllables are too many to bother with) in recent NFL history. Nobody caught the ball better than Larry Center. Nobody returned punts better than Dave Meggett, except perhaps Eric Metcalf. Darren Sproles might be one of the best players in the NFL. And nobody ever talks about Brian Mitchell. Then theres Leon Washington and Josh Cribbs, and even Faulks understudy Danny Woodhead.

What sets Faulk apart from all of those guys, though, is his longevity and his championships. Only Meggett played in close to as many games of import. And he was never the full-on offensive focal point Faulk was when the Patriots needed plays made.

I get chills thinking about Kevin and thinking about the plays hes made over the course of his career, said Brady. The moments against the best players in the biggest games."

Faulk entered the NFL in 1999, the 46th pick (18 after Andy Katzenmoyer) in Pete Carrolls final draft.

He didnt get many touches as a rookie. In Charlie Weis offense the next year, Faulk got touches but had drops (six fumbles in 2000). Many Sundays especially early in the 2000 season felt like the final Sunday for Faulk with the Patriots.

But Faulk worked extremely hard to correct the problem and went from being unreliable to the most reliable.

By his fourth season, Faulk was comfortable.

There was nobody nobody that was more clutch than Kevin Faulk, said Brady. He grew so much over the course of 02, 03, 04 and became one of the most productive players at that position in NFL history.

Looking at Faulks playoff numbers bears that out.

In the 2003 playoffs, he had 14 carries for 72 yards and eight catches for 58. He had 22 for 114 running the ball in the 2004 playoffs three catches for 38 yards as the Patriots beat the Eagles.

Faulk wouldnt take over a game as much as he would serve as the Patriots silent assassin. When the normal stuff wasnt working Corey Dillon, Troy Brown Deion Branch; Randy Moss or Wes Welker the Patriots would scheme something for Faulk because they knew his reliability. He would be where he needed to be and he could improvise and create once he got the ball.

Ross Tucker was an offensive lineman with the Patriots in 2005 and 2006. Now an analyst for SIRIUS XM-Radio, Tucker maintains that Faulk is the best third-down back ever.

It honestly seemed like, in a big playoff game or a big regular season game, when it got to third down, Id be like, Well, theyre gonna throw it to Kevin for 4 yards, hell make two guys miss and dive forward to get the first down, Tucker explained. He was ridiculously clutch. He could pass protect, he could carry the ball. He was outstanding out of the backfield.

I think the one thing I would say is, when you think of Bill Belichick, his big thing is for every player to have a role, Tucker continued. Each guy has a role and your role will be what you make it. And Im not sure you just stop at saying Kevin Faulk is the best third down back ever in league history. I think on a team of role players, Kevin was the greatest role player in Patriots history and maybe one of the greatest role players in NFL history. His role was third down back and he was the best that ever did it.

Tucker has respect for the other players who filled similar roles for their teams.

Larry Centers has ridiculous numbers of catches on several teams but its when Kevin did it, Tucker argued. Thats the big thing. Now it feels like, third-and-7, they throw it to Wes Welker and he dives for the first down. It just seemed like Kevin for years and years, was that guy. Especially in the playoffs. Especially when it mattered the most.

There were a lot of times we didnt even have backs and he was the last one standing and he took us to victory, said Vince Wilfork. Big game player. Versatile. He can run punts, kickoffs, whatever you needed him to do. Hes a team player and a helluva leader.

Faulks future will become official one way or the other in the coming weeks. League-wide, the end of the line will be a note. It is, after all, a bit of a fait accompli. But it will mark an end of an era when Faulk leaves the final Patriot that predates Bill Belichick, the touchstone of professionalism for so many dozens of teammates.

Hell truly be missed by me as a personal friend and as a teammate, said Wilfork. Hes meant a lot to this organization. At that position, hes one of the best ever.

Added Brady, I dont know whats happening with his career but I love him. I love him like a brother and there was so much trust that I developed in him because of his ability to perform under pressure.

Rules changes are in: Field-goal leap, crackback blocks banned

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Rules changes are in: Field-goal leap, crackback blocks banned

PHOENIX -- The NFL has announced which rules, bylaw and resolution proposals passed following Tuesday's vote at the Arizona Biltmore. The full list is below, but here are a couple of the noteworthy changes from a Patriots perspective . . . 

* That leap-the-line play that Jamie Collins and Shea McClellin have executed for the Patriots over the course of the last two seasons? That's been prohibited, as expected. The league did not want coaches to be responsible for putting a player in a position where he may suffer a head or neck injury. (Which is different from a player putting himself in that position with a split-second decision to leave his feet mid-play.)

* Receivers running pass routes can now be considered "defenseless." That means that even within the five-yard "chuck" area beyond the line of scrimmage will have some measure of protection. The Patriots, like many teams, have called for linebackers to disrupt the routes of shallow crossers, which can lead to monster hits on unexpecting players. Those types of collisions may now be fewer and farther between.

* Crackback blocks are now prohibited by a player who is in motion, even if the player is not more than two yards outside the tackle box at the snap. What's the Patriots connection here? It seems as though the overtime play that won Super Bowl LI -- during which Julian Edelman came in motion and "cracked" down on corner Brian Poole -- is now illegal. We'll look for clarification on this when the league holds its press conference describing the rules changes later on Tuesday.

Approved 2017 Playing Rules Proposals

2a. By Philadelphia; Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays. (Final language will be available on NFLCommunications.com)  

8.   By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the rule that disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. 

9.   By Competition Committee; Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only. 

11. By Competition Committee; Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection. 

12. By Competition Committee; Makes crackback blocks prohibited by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped. 

13. By Competition Committee; Replaces the sideline replay monitor with a hand-held device and authorizes designated members of the Officiating department to make the final decision on replay reviews. 

14. By Competition Committee; Makes it Unsportsmanlike Conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock. 

15. By Competition Committee; Makes actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.

Approved 2017 Bylaw Proposals

4.     By Competition Committee; Liberalizes rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club’s facility for one year only. 

5.     By Competition Committee; Changes the procedures for returning a player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness to the Active List to be similar to those for returning a player that was Designated for Return.  

6.     By Competition Committee; The League office will transmit a Personnel Notice to clubs on Sundays during training camp and preseason.

Approved 2017 Resolution Proposal

G-4.     By Competition Committee: Permits a contract or non-contract non-football employee to interview with and be hired by another club during the playing season, provided the employer club has consented.

Bowles on if Revis can still compete physically: 'I don't know for sure'

Bowles on if Revis can still compete physically: 'I don't know for sure'

PHOENIX -- Todd Bowles wasn't asked if he thinks Darrelle Revis can be a All-Pro level player. He wasn't asked if Revis has it in him to be a No. 1 corner again.

The bar was much lower. 

Can Revis, who will be 32 at the start of next season, still be a serviceable player? Does he have the physical ability to be competitive?

Bowles should know. He coached Revis with the Jets each of the last two years. But his answer was far from definitive.

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"If he goes ahead and proves it, yeah he does," Bowles said during the AFC coaches breakfast on Tuesday. "But we'll see. I don't know for sure. I can't answer that. Only he can."

It's been a remarkable fall from grace for Revis, who re-signed with the Jets as a free agent after winning a Super Bowl with the Patriots. He was given $39 million fully guaranteed and went on to make the Pro Bowl in his first season back.

Last year, however, he had his worst season and was arguably among the worst full-time corners in the league. Quarterbacks completed almost two-thirds of their passes sent in his direction, and they had a rating of 104.2 when targeting the player formerly known as Revis Island.

"I love the guy. I love the player," Bowles said. "He didn't have a great year, but we didn't have a great season so he wasn't the only one. It's all about coming back and proving you can still do it every year. That can only be answered when you come back and do it."

The Jets released him earlier this offseason despite the fact that he's guaranteed $6 million by the team whether he plays in 2017 or not.

Now that Revis is looking for a job, New England has been cited by some as the most logical place for him to land. Asked about the potential of having Revis back, Patriots owner Robert Kraft told the New York Daily News on Monday that he'd be all for it.

“I would love it," Kraft said. "Speaking for myself, if he wanted to come back, he’s a great competitor, I’d welcome him if he wanted to come.”

At this point, however, a reunion seems unlikely. 

The Patriots are looking at the potential of having Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones all on the roster at corner next season -- though there is some question as to whether or not Butler will stick. 

And if Revis is hoping to make a move to safety, he'd probably have a hard time finding playing time as part of a group that will include Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung. 

Then there's the question as to his motivation. After winning a Super Bowl, and after making as much money as he's made, with an easy $6 million more staring him in the face, will Revis be ready to re-adapt to the demands of playing in New England?

Even if he is, there could very well be physical limitations impacting Revis' effectiveness moving forward. Bowles acknowledged that for some at Revis' age who play his position, the drop-off can come quickly.

"Sometimes it can. Sometimes it can't," Bowles said. "Every story is different. You have to write your own so he has to write his."