One of the biggest stories coming out of the Patriots player-run practices today was the news that veteran running back Kevin Faulk was in attendance and participating. Faulk, 35, missed nearly all of 2010 with an ACL tear suffered in week two against the New York Jets.
According to the Boston Herald, Faulk took part in all drills and seemed to run without a noticeable limp. This is certainly encouraging news for the 13th year veteran (assuming he doesn't plan on retiring), but what does it mean for his future with the team?
The Patriots have gotten considerably younger at the running back position this offseason, with free agents Fred Taylor and Sammy Morris presumably on the way out the door, and with the team spending second and third round picks on California's Shane Vereen and LSU's Stevan Ridley, respectively. This, the fact that Faulk is coming off serious injury, and the fact that Shane Vereen and Danny Woodhead, two younger options, seem to mimic a lot of what Faulk does has led many to believe that Faulk's Patriots days are over.
But if Faulk's presence at today's workout is any indication, Faulk may not be ready to hang 'em up just yet. After practice, Faulk spoke to reporters and seemed to hint that it may be Patriots-or-bust, saying, "I'm a free agent, but I'm a Patriot for life."
So should the Patriots bring him back? There are plenty of reasons both for and against, For argument's sake, I'm going to leave nostalgic reasons out of this.
One of the reasons I would be hesitant to bring him back would be because of the fact that he could cut into the development of the younger backs. In addition, he's still an injury risk that might be wasting a roster spot (for a fifth running back) if he isn't high on the depth chart.
But as I said, there are also plenty of reasons for bringing him back as well. For one, it would likely be on a low risk, high reward contract. If he were to come into camp and just not be the same player, the Patriots could simply cut ties with him (or have him "retire"). If he showed that he could still be an effective player, he could earn a roster spot and be a contributing member of the team. Lets not forget: Kevin Faulk is an elite third down back. Danny Woodhead did some great things last year, but he's not on the same level as Faulk as a receiver or in blitz pick-up. Now it remains to be seen if Faulk can be the same player he was pre-inujry. But if he can, you've got to think that Tom Brady would love to see old, reliable #33 out there again (even if it means less playing time for Woodhead and/or Vereen). Either way, Faulk is a great locker room player and a real leader who could help teach the younger players a thing or two about the game (Coach Faulk?).
My verdict: Give Faulk a chance to earn a roster spot in training camp on a non-guaranteed deal.
What do you think?