By Jim Thomas

Although Marshall Faulk didn't officially close the door on his NFL career Wednesday, he sounded very much like a man who has played his last football game.

On the one hand, Faulk wouldn't eliminate the possibility of playing in 2007.

"The knee is coming along slowly," Faulk said. "I'm taking it year to year. I'm working out. I'm rehabbing And that's it. If it feels good enough to where I can go out there and feel comfortable with what I can do, then fine. If not, I'm fine. I'm OK."

On the other hand, Faulk spoke of his playing career in the past tense on several occasions, including when asked if he has come to grips with the fact that his career might be over.

"I've come to grips with that a long time ago," Faulk said. "I gave myself five years (in the NFL), then I gave myself 10 years, and I ended up playing 12. I've been fortunate."

Faulk answered questions Wednesday in a conference call to promote his hiring by NFL Network as an analyst. It marked his first comments about his continuing knee problems and the probable end of his NFL career since it was confirmed four weeks ago that he needed more knee surgery and would not play in 2006.

Exploratory surgery at the end of July revealed that Faulk needed a reconstruction of the posterior cruciate ligament in his knee before he could play again. Faulk said Wednesday that he has yet to decide whether to have the surgery.

"I'm going to take the next two to three months and rehab this thing and see how it goes," Faulk said.

If he decides on surgery, Faulk said it will be done "not just for football, but for life."

After dominating the league at his position for the better part of a decade, Faulk said it hasn't been easy making a definitive decision on his football future.

"Your emotions get in the way, and your love for the game gets in the way," said Faulk, 33. "What I'm trying to do is just be smart about it. And understand that your body is the ruler. It'll let you know. You only get one to live in. So I have to take care of it the best that I can and do what's best for myself when it comes to that."

Despite months of speculation about his future following the 2005 season, Faulk said he didn't make up his mind about sitting out this season until the week before training camp.

"I knew that my knee just wasn't responding the way that I wanted it to," Faulk said. "I was a little down. But I was realistic about it. I knew that there was no way possible for me to play on the leg the way it was at the present time."

No one in the Rams' organization expects Faulk back in 2007. He is still being paid by the organization and remains on the team's reserve-physically unable to perform list. He is due $2 million this year, which a high-ranking team official referred to as a "soft landing" into retirement -- a kind of going-away present from the franchise to Faulk.

Faulk certainly earned the money, helping turn around what had been the NFL's losingest franchise in the 1990s after being traded to the Rams from Indianapolis in 1999.

On the NFL's career lists, Faulk ranks fourth in touchdowns (136), ninth in yards rushing (12,279), fourth in yards from scrimmage (19,154) and, as a testament to his versatility, ranks 16th in receptions (767).

From 1999 through 2001, he was a focal point of the Greatest Show on Turf, one of the greatest offenses in football history.

"I've been fortunate," Faulk said. "The position that I play is a heavy, heavy impact position. You just can't expect a long life span out of it. There's a lot of luck that's involved, and I've had a lot of it. If there's a little bit of unfortunate luck right now that I can't (come) back, then so let it be. I am happy with it."

Since the end of last season, Faulk has spent most of his time living in California. He doesn't figure to be around the Rams much this season.

"I will catch some games, especially the West Coast games," Faulk said. "I'll try to attend them, if possible. I'll be in St. Louis sometimes. To be honest, I want to be around. . . . I love being around the game. I love the guys that I played with. I love St. Louis."

Faulk said he will continue to keep his charitable foundation running in St. Louis. He is interested in trying to bring an Arena Football League franchise to St. Louis as part of the ownership group.

At the same time, Faulk said, "I want to learn my gig at the network. I want to be the best that I can."

That may take away from any opportunities to be in St. Louis or spend time with the Rams.

"In talking about St. Louis . . . I think the thing that I will remember most is my first preseason game there, having the game look like Thursday night's game as you saw with the crowd," Faulk said.

There were 20,000 to 25,000 empty seats last Thursday for the Rams' exhibition opener, against visiting Indianapolis.

"As we went through the (1999) season from that game on up until maybe the last game that I played in St. Louis, it being sold out was just phenomenal," Faulk said. "Just to watch the city and the fans get behind us and the support that they gave us for the seven years that I was there was just great."