Kevin Faulk thought Troy Brown was crazy.
Well, maybe not crazy. But he still wasn’t sure why Brown, a former Patriots star, did some of the things he did in the twilight of his career to get his body ready to play. Back in the day, it was simple for Faulk: You just go out and play, right? The body will take care of itself.
But now that Faulk is older -- the running back will turn 33 next month, and he’ll enter his 11th year in the NFL this fall -- he finally understands what Brown had to go through to get right each season. Turns out Brown knew what he was doing.
“Those lessons are really starting to pay off,” Faulk said yesterday. “I wondered why he did what he did to keep his body in shape. Now, I’m going into my 11th year, and I know why.”
It’s sometimes hard to fathom how Faulk has managed to stick around as long as he has. Drafted in the second round out of LSU in 1999, the 5-foot-8, 200-pound Faulk is only one of six players left on the New England roster who can say they’ve played a home game at Foxboro Stadium, and just one of two players remaining on the roster (Tedy Bruschi is the other) who pre-date Bill Belichick’s arrival as a head coach of the Patriots.
Over the course of his career, he’s managed to work his way into the franchise record books: He’s in the Top 10 in Patriots’ history in total rushing yards (3,170, 8th), total receiving yards (3,304, 4th), total kick return yards (3,954, 1st) and total punt return yards (901, 6th).
In addition, he’s evolved into a terrific third-down back, is the best New England running back when it comes to blitz pickup and is a dependable pass-catching presence out of the backfield. For a guy many critics derided as fumble-prone and undersized at the start of his career, he’s now become as much a part of the fabric of football in New England as game-day traffic on Route 1.
But it isn’t easy maintaining that level, especially as you get older.
“Once you get older, you have to work hard to maintain,” he said. “You have to keep up, because it’s really hard to just get right back into it if you haven’t prepared.”
It’s been an eventful offseason for the New England backfield. In free agency, it gained veteran Fred Taylor and lost Heath Evans. And Sammy Morris took an offseason trip to the Middle East. Faulk? No trips for him -- he’s been enjoying his time away from the game.
“I’ve just been hanging out with the family this offseason. When you have kids in school and after-school activities, it takes up a bunch of your time. I’ve been working out, but we haven’t really gone anywhere.”
Faulk and the rest of the running backs should get a little more help this season with the addition of Taylor. The news that Taylor signed with the Patriots came as terrific news to Faulk, who has a relationship with Taylor that dates back to high school.
“We took some recruiting trips together, and in college we were close,” Faulk said of the 33-year-old Taylor. “For a while, we had the same agent. But we’ve kept up our friendship over the years. I’m happy to have him here.”
Faulk has also become a major fundraiser. This Saturday, he’ll host his third annual charity softball game at Campanelli Stadium in Brockton. (For more on the game, click here.) Created to help benefit the United Way, it’s raised $25,000. This year’s game will have several current and former Patriots -- according to Faulk, Wes Welker, James Sanders, Tedy Bruschi, Ty Warren, Joe Andruzzi, Stephen Neal, Patrick Pass, Jerod Mayo, Adalius Thomas and Laurence Maroney are some of the Patriots scheduled to appear.
“Like, 25 to 30 guys are going to play,” Faulk said. “I really do appreciate them coming out and playing.”
One guy who isn’t scheduled to show up is Tom Brady. However, Faulk says the quarterback has been around Gillette Stadium an awful lot in the offseason, and “looks good” as he continues his rehab after suffering season-ending knee injury in Week 1 of the 2008 campaign.
“He looks like himself,” Faulk said. “But at the same time, he’s working hard to get back to where he needs to be. He looks good.”
Christopher Price covers the Patriots for WEEI.com.