Faulk talks up play
Injured leader staying involved
FOXBOROUGH — Kevin Faulk’s phone continues to ring these days. His fellow Patriots running backs haven’t forgotten about him; in fact, they are leaning on him.
They used to call to check on Faulk as he healed from a season-ending knee injury. Now they are reaching out for his advice. Faulk has watched BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead handle the bulk of the running responsibilities, and their success hasn’t surprised him.
“I think it’s been this way around here for as long as I’ve been here,’’ Faulk said. “It doesn’t matter what happens or what goes on throughout the course of a year, a guy has to step up, do his job, and be ready to go, and that’s what’s happening. It’s just been like that.’’
Green-Ellis is 301 yards shy of becoming the Patriots’ first 1,000-yard rusher since Corey Dillon in 2004. He is also tied for second in the NFL with 11 rushing touchdowns. Meanwhile, Woodhead has picked up 355 yards on 66 carries and 334 yards on 28 receptions.
Tomorrow, the running backs may play an even bigger role as the Patriots travel to Chicago to play in what is expected to be numbing conditions drizzled with snow.
“The weather and the elements are part of the game and you have to prepare as best as you can and go out there and do whatever it is to be prepared to play,’’ Green-Ellis said.
Green-Ellis wasn’t projected to be the main back when the season began. But he was pushed into the role after the Patriots traded Laurence Maroney to Denver and Faulk was injured in Week 2 against the Jets.
The day before Faulk was injured, the Patriots signed Woodhead, who had been cut by the Jets days earlier. With Fred Taylor out with turf toe, Woodhead and Green-Ellis continued to get the majority of the carries.
Taylor got his first game action since Week 3 Monday night, with four carries for 9 yards in the final minutes of the 45-3 win over the Jets.
Faulk was on hand for the Jets victory and coach Bill Belichick credited the veteran with helping players stay focused leading up to the AFC East matchup. Faulk’s trips to Gillette Stadium are for rehab purposes, but last week he was around to motivate and answer questions.
Faulk’s teammates took advantage of his presence Monday night, with players such as Woodhead asking him for advice during the game.
“You do that while you’re playing, but it may come even more now that I’m hurt,’’ Faulk said. “It’s just helping a guy out.’’
Woodhead is filling Faulk’s old role while also building a reputation himself.
“Right now, it’s his role,’’ Faulk said. “He’s doing it. A guy goes down, a guy has to step up. In a situation like that, where he got cut by the Jets, it was a blessing in disguise. When something negative happens, somewhere it’s a positive for someone else, and he’s going on and making it a positive for himself.’’
The tailbacks must deal with a number of obstacles tomorrow, from the cold weather to a tough Chicago defense to the resodded surface at Soldier Field. The new turf was installed last week.
“When we get there [tomorrow] morning, we have to get out early and test the field out and test our shoes and try getting footing under you and deal with it,’’ Green-Ellis said.
“You go in and check the surfaces pregame and you go from there and warm up as if you’re playing a game to see how the field is holding,’’ Taylor said. “All of that plays a factor into the outcome of the game. As a player you want to be aware of the conditions. Whatever it takes to make yourself confident in the conditions.’’
Faulk plans to watch the game on television and continue rooting on his teammates. Faulk said he misses being on the field but he is pleased to see the younger players succeeding.
“That’s the best part, them doing it without me,’’ Faulk said. “Guys are making the most of their opportunities.’’
Monique Walker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.