Patriots X-Factor: Faulk flies under the radar

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Kevin Faulk sat at a round table Thursday at the Patriots' hotel with a black hoodie pulled over his head, ready for the final round of questioning by the media before competing for his fourth Super Bowl ring with the New England Patriots.

No cameras or reporters had descended on his table yet, but he knew what question was coming, as it had been asked countless times every day this week: Is this Super Bowl more special because there is a chance to make history? His answer, probably influenced by his nine years with coach Bill Belichick, always touches on the fact that this is a one-game season.

"If you win the game, you win the championship," he said. "Everything else will take care of itself."

Faulk sat relaxed and composed as he endured another super-hyped Super Bowl week. The versatile 31-year-old is known as a third-down back, an excellent blocker and a reliable receiver out of the backfield. And that's just on the field. In the locker roon, Faulk commands the respect of all his teammates and earns high praise from his coach.

"He has one of the best attitudes of any player I have ever worked with in terms of working hard to try to get better and doing what's best for the football team, whatever that role is for him," Belichick said. "There's no player I respect more than Kevin Faulk. He's awesome."

Faulk, voted one of the team captains this year, has nothing but admiration for the only NFL coach he's ever had.

"I've been here nine years. In those years that Coach Belichick has been the coach, you learn so much from him from the context of just being ready, no matter what. You have to know what situation you'll be in during the game and you just have to be prepared for it."

Faulk's willingness to adjust his style for the good of the team has contributed to his durability. During his time at LSU, Faulk said he had never thrown a block. He credits his first NFL running backs coach, Kirby Wilson, with teaching him to embrace blocking in order to remain relevant in a pro backfield.

He also sought out a mentor when he entered the league. Wide receiver Troy Brown found Faulk tagging along with him in the weight room and emulating the way he carried himself in practice.

"You just enjoy a younger guy, when they come in, to latch on to you," Brown said. "I'm not the one to reach out and grab a guy and say come on with me. He kind of just... looked around for himself, studied people himself and [saw] who he wanted to kind of emulate and what he wanted his career to be like."

In 2006, Faulk's career came full circle when the Patriots drafted running back Laurence Maroney, and it was his turn to dispense wisdom about the league and the only roster on which his name has appeared.

"He does a great job with Laurence," Brown added. "He takes that guy under his wings and he does a tremendous job with him, keeps his head level and focused on what he is supposed to be doing."

Maroney says he views Faulk as a big brother.

"He comes in and says, 'Young guy, I'm going to need you to show up today,' and he just gives you that encouragement and extra spark to go out there and do some good."

As the Patriots endured early-season injuries to Sammy Morris and Maroney, Faulk stepped in to contribute in any way he was asked. He carried the ball 62 times this season for 265 yards and hauled in 47 passes for 383 yards. He also moved into 10th place on the Patriots' all-time rushing list.

"I look at it as doing whatever you have to do to help your team," Faulk said. "If it's catching a 3-yard pass and breaking a tackle and running six or seven yards for the first down, hey, that's what I'm gonna have to do."

Faulk's experience, ability to read defenses and pick up blitzes could give New England an advantage in Super Bowl XLII.

Teammate Randy Moss said Faulk's contributions fly under the radar because he's not an every-down back, but he's vital to the Patriots chances of bringing home another Lombardi Trophy.

"I told Kevin, I said, 'Now I'm happy to play with you.' Because as a wide receiver, you're not open and sometimes it's hard to get open, but then you have a running back that the majority of the time will find a way to get open."

Faulk refused to talk about whether or not Sunday could be his final game, because he's only looking three days ahead. It's a one-game season. The rest, he said, will take care of itself.

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