- The Washington Times - Friday, June 23, 2006

Look for St. Louis running back Marshall Faulk, the only non-quarterback to win MVP honors from 1999 to 2004, to retire this summer. Faulk was a shadow of his former do-everything self last season, and at 33 his body isn’t cooperating.

“When you get to year 13, when you get a coaching change, you look at the bigger picture of things,” Faulk said. “You say, ‘Are we going to be playing for a championship?’ If that doesn’t seem possible, then you start thinking about other things.”

Faulk missed all the Rams’ offseason activities after having arthroscopic surgery on both of his knees because one knee hasn’t responded positively.

“I don’t know if you can say, ‘Hey, knee, you’ve got to be ready by camp,’” said Faulk, whose recent marriage could also prompt him to walk away. “If that was the case, I’d have told it to be ready six months ago. I’m kind of a foreigner to my own body. I thought I knew this piece of work here. As you get a little older, you kind of become a little distant with your body. You wake up, and things don’t feel the way they used to.”

Faulk, fourth all-time in touchdowns and yards from scrimmage and ninth in rushing, has backed up Steven Jackson since midway though 2004. He hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2001, the Rams’ last Super Bowl season. If Faulk retires, former Green Bay third-down back Tony Fisher would be St. Louis’ alternative to Jackson.

Davis no wallflower — Former Maryland tight end Vernon Davis wasted no time making an impression on San Francisco’s veterans. Coach Mike Nolan had to separate Davis — the sixth pick in the draft — and linebacker Brandon Moore during a recent practice.

“There was a lot of passion and spirit from the guys and they got in each other’s face a little bit,” Nolan said. “It’s part of the process when you are competing and trying to get better.”

Which sport for Page? — Jarrad Page has the rare distinction of being picked twice in the seventh round in the same year. Now the former UCLA safety/outfielder has to decide whether to try to make the Kansas City Chiefs’ roster this summer or sign with the Los Angeles Angels and work his way up through baseball’s minor leagues.

“I’m still trying to figure out everything that’s going on [with] both sides,” Page said. “Eventually I’ll have to make some type of choice.”

Page was so eager to join the Chiefs that he finished his classes at UCLA ahead of schedule so he could comply with the NFL rule that allows rookies to practice only if that semester’s classes are completed.

General manager Carl Peterson said the Chiefs won’t get into a bidding war for Page. NFL seventh-rounders generally receive signing bonuses in the neighborhood of $30,000. Players taken in the seventh round of the 2005 baseball draft received bonuses ranging from $15,000 to $250,000.

“We’re talking about a seventh-round draft choice,” Peterson said. “I don’t consider that to be any leverage for him.”

Woodson returns — Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson wants to return punts as he did while winning the Heisman Trophy in 1997. Woodson returned just 12 punts in his eight years with Oakland. The Packers, who lost punt returner Antonio Chatman to Cincinnati in free agency, plan to oblige Woodson.

“Any time you put the ball in Charles’ hands good things are going to happen,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “I’m excited about him as a punt returner. He’s very natural back there.”

Not showing the love — Linebacker Lance Briggs was voted to his first Pro Bowl last season. Running back Thomas Jones rushed for a career-high 1,335 yards. But those accomplishments haven’t kept them from being benched. Chicago coach Lovie Smith was angered when they skipped this spring’s voluntary organized team activities.

“To be at the top of the starting rotation, you have to be here,” Smith said. “That’s how it is.”

Not surprisingly, Briggs and Jones are both clients of Drew Rosenhaus, perpetually the agent with the most players in hot water.

“This isn’t about rules,” general manager Jerry Angelo said. “It’s about what’s right. It’s about team building.”

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