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 FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) -Kevin Faulk's role hasn't changed from the day he joined the mediocre Patriots in 1999 until he scored the winning touchdown that kept them undefeated last Sunday.
His role is to play whatever role New England's coaches ask of him.
Third-down back, pass receiver, runner, kickoff and punt returner - he's played them all.
``My role, always, since I've been here is be prepared for everything,'' Faulk said. ``You never know what situation you can get in the game and that's the approach I've been taking for a long time.''
This season the Patriots are 9-0 and he's running more because of injuries to the top two running backs. Laurence Maroney is back after missing three games with a groin injury. But Sammy Morris is out for the season with a chest injury after playing six games, and rushing for more than 100 yards in two of them.
``You have to do a little bit more,'' Faulk said. ``The coaches expect you to do more to help out the younger guys.''
Faulk's one of the older guys. Only linebacker Tedy Bruschi has been with the Patriots longer.
The 5-foot-8 Faulk ended his college career as the leading rusher in LSU history with 4,557 yards. In the nine years since then he's rushed for only 2,586. But he's the Patriots' career leader in receptions by a running back and yards returning kickoffs.
He's also made big plays.
There was the 2-point conversion reception that gave the Patriots a 29-22 lead in their 32-29 Super Bowl win over Carolina in the 2003 season. The next year, he made a 12-yard catch to Philadelphia's 2-yard line that set up the Patriots' third touchdown in a 24-21 Super Bowl win.
His latest came last Sunday.
Trailing Indianapolis 20-17 in the matchup of unbeaten teams, the Patriots had the ball at the Colts 13 with 3:21 left when Tom Brady threw a short pass over the middle to Faulk.
``I thought I was going to initially get hit,'' Faulk said, ``but when there was no one within a couple of yards, I was like, 'Wow, there's a big blue end zone over there. It would be mighty nice if I could get in it.'''
It would have been even nicer if he didn't lose the ball.
``Whenever, the ball comes out you're always concerned,'' Faulk said. ``My first thing is, where is the ball?''
It was on the ground, but officials ruled he had scored before it came loose.
Coach Bill Belichick wasn't as accommodating when Faulk went to the sideline.
``Kevin told me after the touchdown,'' Brady said, that Belichick told him, ``'Great play Kevin. Great play. Hold on to the bleeping ball.'''
Faulk has been around Belichick long enough to understand.
``There's always a coachable play,'' he said. ``He kind of humbled me a little bit. It was exciting to score the touchdown but, at the same time, he gave me a coaching point that I might have needed.''
Then Belichick gave Faulk and his teammates five full days off during their bye week - a reward for going unbeaten so far?
``Whatever decision he has with the coaching stuff, you just take it,'' Faulk said. ``You may not understand, but you just take it because you know down the line it's going to be for the best.''
Faulk started the first game of his rookie season and rushed 10 times for a total of 17 yards. He's led the team in rushing in just one season. His hopes of becoming a featured back were fading.
``I'm more mature than that now,'' he said. ``I was more of a guy that depended on his ability more than mentally. And now, just being around the coach and the coaching staff for so long, I'm more of a complete football player. I don't just play football. I read it. I know it well.''
In his second NFL season, Faulk caught a career-high 51 passes, many for first downs, and that became his major role.
This season, he's added still another: captain of a team that won three Super Bowls in six years.
``I'm not going to say I'm embracing it,'' Faulk said, but ``you may have to do things because that's what the team expects you to do. So I'm taking it all in stride.''

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