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Faulk's absence could portend retirement
Running back is not attending minicamp
BY STEVE KORTE
ST. LOUIS - Running back Marshall Faulk could be contemplating retirement after being physically unable to participate in the St. Louis Rams' mandatory minicamp this weekend.
"It's one of those things that you have to come to terms with, and he only knows how he feels," Rams coach Scott Linehan said. "Guys who have played at such a high level for so many years and have taken so many hits, sometimes it starts to wear you down a little bit, and he's trying to figure out how he can manage it.
"That's a tough one. I certainly can respect what he is going through."
Faulk's agent, the St. Louis-based Rocky Arcenaux, contacted Linehan on Thursday to let him know that Faulk wouldn't be taking part in the minicamp.
Faulk, 33, had arthroscopic "clean-up" surgery on both knees early this year.
"We talked to his agent yesterday and he said he wasn't physically ready to go," Linehan said. "I've been a little nervous about that. He had surgery on both knees, and he told me that one of the knees wasn't responding as well."
Linehan said he met with Faulk about two weeks ago.
Faulk is in St. Louis as he's scheduled to appear with comedian Tommy Davidson at the Funny Bone in West Port Plaza during a benefit for the Marshall Faulk Foundation. He'll be holding his annual charity golf tournament Monday.
"On one hand, yes, and on the other hand, he's dealing with something bigger than meetings," Linehan said of whether he would have liked for Faulk to be at the minicamp and watch practices. "I think he is coming to terms with whether he can do it.
"I think it would make it harder for him. It would make him want to go out there even though he's not ready. The competitor in him would not want to stand there and watch."
Faulk, a seven-time Pro Bowl selection and the NFL's Most Valuable Player in 2000, accepted a reduced role behind starter Steven Jackson last season.
Faulk rushed for 292 yards on 65 carries last season. He also caught 44 passes for 291 yards and one touchdown.
Jackson downplayed Faulk's absence from the minicamp.
"Marshall is a veteran," Jackson said. "There's not too many things he hasn't seen in this league. From my understanding, he is busy rehabing. We just wish him the best and hope he will be back here in July."
Rams quarterback Marc Bulger said he didn't know how close Faulk is to hanging up his shoulder pads.
"He came to my (golf) outing a few weeks ago in Pittsburgh, but I didn't really talk football with him," Bulger said. "I think he's sitting down and making that decision now (after) seeing how his health is. It's up to him and the coaching staff."
Bulger said Faulk still can be an asset to the Rams as a backup.
"Just his experience and what he has done for this organization," Bulger said. "Steven is only in his third year, so having that guy around to help with protections and experience is invaluable."
If Faulk does retire, the Rams would save $2 million on the salary cap this season, but they'd take about a $4 million hit on the cap next season in the form of his prorated bonus money.
Without Faulk, the Rams would be left with a group of young, unproven running backs behind Jackson.
The group that includes Tony Fisher, Fred Russell, John David Washington, the son of actor Denzel Washington, and Paul Smith.
Fisher is the most experienced of the lot having rushed for 880 yards on 235 carries -- an average of 3.7 yards per carry -- in four seasons with the Green Bay Packers.
"I haven't even got there yet," Linehan said of his options at backup running back. "We'll have to address that, and evaluate if there is anything we can do there. We just haven't had to cross that bridge yet."
Linehan said he felt comfortable in his relationship with Faulk, who was close with former coach Mike Martz.
"Oh definitely," Linehan said. "Somebody asked me about that early today, and it really isn't bad at all. This is a personal issue because he doesn't want to play at a level that he is not accustomed to playing. Reality is, time does catch up with you.
"I know it is going to be a sad day for all of us, if he is indeed contemplating not playing anymore, but that's life, that's reality."
Faulk ranks ninth all-time in rushing yards with 12,279, sixth all-time in total yards with 19,160 and fourth all-time in touchdowns with 136. The future Hall of Famer also ranks No. 1 all-time in most receiving yards for a running back with 6,875.
Contact reporter Steve Korte at firstname.lastname@example.org or 239-2522.
-06-11-2006 #2Ram Warrior Guest
Re: Faulk's absence could portend retirement
I hope he comes back I really don't think he will.
Re: Faulk's absence could portend retirement
Every day he misses the less likely he is to return. He is falling further and further behind in a totally new system. Even if he does come back, how effective will he be?