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So what?

“It doesn’t matter what anybody else says,” Faulk said. “My coaching staff, players that I’ve played with, they know what type of football player I am. They know what type of person I am and how hard I’m going to go out there and play for you.”

Tom Brady knew he could depend on Faulk to protect him and catch key passes.

“Very few guys over the years have played as well and consistently at such a high level as Kevin,” Brady said. “There’s nobody like him. He’s such a unique person, a unique talent, a unique spirit about him. (Kevin) always provides great leadership, so it’s a big loss for us.”

Brady tore knee ligaments in the 2008 opener and returned in 2009 to have an outstanding season. Wide receiver Wes Welker made a speedy recovery after tearing a knee ligament in the regular-season finale on Jan. 3 and scored two touchdowns in this year’s opener.

“They all reached out to me,” Faulk said.

When he arrived as a second-round draft pick out of Louisiana State, the Patriots were three years removed from a Super Bowl loss. They were 8-8 in his rookie year and 5-11 in 2000, Belichick’s first year. But they won the championship the next season.

“I think I’m pretty lucky that he was here when I got here,” Belichick said. “He’s smart. He’s tough. He’s got good skills, good running skills, good catching skills. He’s a good decision maker. Most of all, I think he’s very coachable and really cares about the game, his teammates and his team. What’s there not to like about Kevin Faulk?”

Faulk will wait for the knee swelling to subside, have surgery and start rehabilitation.

“I’m going to rehab my butt off and see what happens, let my body tell me,” Faulk said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play football for over 20 years so far without an ACL injury. Like a lot of people told me, I’ve been blessed.”