FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — It was tough for Kevin Faulk to leave football. Any hopes he had of staying, though, faded when the New England Patriots' running game made major strides.
The team's career leader in all-purpose yards made it official on Tuesday after two injury-plagued seasons. He formally announced his retirement after 13 memorable years in a ceremony at the team's Hall of Fame attended by owner Robert Kraft, coach Bill Belichick and several teammates.
"I never thought I'd be saying I'm retiring from football," Faulk said, "and I never thought I'd have three of these."
That's when he took out the Super Bowl championship rings he won with the only team he played for since the Patriots drafted him in 1999 in the second round out of LSU.
He played only two games in 2010 before suffering a season-ending knee injury. He began last season on the physically unable to perform list then was activated and played seven games. But he was inactive for the 21-17 Super Bowl loss to the New York Giants.
And this season, the Patriots' revived running game has gained the third most yards in the NFL, led by Stevan Ridley's 490. Faulk exceeded that total in just three of his seasons. Backups Brandon Bolden and Danny Woodhead also have been productive.
Primarily a third-down back on offense, he made his mark on return teams for New England. His 12,349 all-purpose yards, 5,041 return yards and 4,098 kick return yards are team records. He also rushed for 3,607 yards and 16 touchdowns and caught 431 passes for 3,701 yards and 15 touchdowns.
"No matter what he was asked to do, nobody did it better than Kevin," Belichick said. "He always put the team first, he always worked hard. Nobody contributed more to the team winning than Kevin."
Faulk was, Belichick concluded, "the ultimate team player."
"Kevin Faulk helped define the way an entire generation of Patriots fans have come to view and appreciate our brand of football," he said in a statement. "He worked so hard to get better every year. He was always one of the first to arrive in the building and among the last to leave.
"His work ethic, enthusiasm for the game and clutch performances, especially on third down, earned him the respect of his coaches, teammates and fans alike. He retires a Patriot whose career will always be celebrated for helping deliver three Super Bowl championships to New England."
Patriots wide receiver Deion Branch, linebacker Jerod Mayo and cornerback Devin McCourty attended the ceremony.
New England (3-2) will meet Seattle (3-2) on Sunday.
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