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It took some time for Kevin Faulk to pick up blitz pickup

11.18.09 at 2:57 pm ET
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FOXBORO — As a collegian, Kevin Faulk didn’t have to worry too much about blitz pickup.

At LSU, he wasn’t the one blocking for others. Not that he didn’t want to, but frequently, he was the one who was being asked to pick up the yards himself — Faulk finished his collegiate career ranked fifth in NCAA history with 6,833 career all-purpose yards and 53 total touchdowns, an SEC record that was just tied last week by Florida’s Tim Tebow.

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In his 11th season with the Patriots, Faulk has become an accomplished all-around back, but is perhaps proudest of his skills in blitz pickup. (AP)

So when he was asked to contribute in blitz pickup in his rookie year with the Patriots, you might understand it if he wasn’t completely aware of what he was doing.

“A lot of guys come into the league, they never have to pick up a blitz, and if they did, they would just cut block,” said Faulk, currently in his 11th season in New England. “But you can’t cut all the time.

“I’ve always had strong legs, so I felt like if I could absorb a player coming into me, I could regain my leverage and hold them off. It worked for a while,” he recalled. “Until you get to those players who are, like, 265 pounds that just pick you up and run you back to the quarterback.”

But after a lot of help from a lot of different people, the 33-year-old has become an acknowledged master in the art of blitz pickup, and the go-to guy when it comes to making sure quarterback Tom Brady has a security blanket in the backfield when New England is facing an aggressive defense.

On Wednesday morning, 5-foot-8, 202-pound Faulk credited a whole host of people for helping make him better at blitz pickup over the years, from former Patriots coaches Kirby Wilson and Charlie Weis to current running backs coach Ivan Fears, as well as former teammates Terry Allen, Corey Dillon, Antowain Smith and Larry Centers.

Now, thanks to their help, he gets as much satisfaction from a neutralizing an onrushing linebacker as he does from breaking off a big run.

“It really is funny for me now,” Faulk said, “because you can see me during games now when Tom throws the ball deep and I have to pick up a blitz, I’ll be cheering like if I made a 30- or 40-yard run because I know that’s what I do. That’s what they expect of me.”

The Patriots will lean on those abilities this week against an aggressive Jets team that loves to blitz the quarterback.

“That’s just one of those things where you don’t have to worry about anybody juking you,” Faulk said of facing the New York defense. “You know that they’re just coming in and trying to run you over. They’re going to try and play physical.”

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