Thursday, June 19, 2014
Franklin news hit the Packers hard
By Rob Demovsky
GREEN BAY, Wis. -- The last day of minicamp typically has a last-day-of-school feeling, with players eager to begin their summer break, but spirits were dampened in the Green Bay Packers' locker room on Thursday after receiving word that running back Johnathan Franklin's neck injury will end his career with the team and most likely in the NFL.
At one end of the locker room was fellow running back DuJuan Harris, whose only concern for Franklin was his future health.
"It's not about football; it's way beyond football," Harris said. "Damn football. This is his life. I'm not thinking about football."
Running back Johnathan Franklin had 19 carries for 107 yards and one touchdown last season.
At the other end of the locker room was defensive end Datone Jones. No one with the Packers goes back further with Franklin than Jones. They grew up near each other in Los Angeles and committed to UCLA on the same day.
"To see him work so hard to actually make his dream come true and make it to the NFL, man, it's tough to see it end this way, because I knew how hard he worked," Jones said. "He's a special guy. He was a special guy at UCLA, and not only on the field but off the field. He was very involved off the field. One thing I do know: he has a calling outside of football to lift people and bring people's spirits up. Hopefully he can pursue his dream to become the mayor of L.A."
In the middle of the room was running back Eddie Lacy, Franklin's roommate in training camp last season. The Packers picked Lacy and Franklin in the same draft last year, two rounds apart. The two expected to be tied together for years to come.
"He shot everybody in the running back group a text, and it just makes you cherish the moments that you get to play," Lacy said. "We came in together. We got to know each other real good and we spent a lot of time together. He was just starting [his career], and just like that, as fast as you get it, it can be taken away. But from talking to him and still being around him, he has a great personality. He's going to be down a little bit, but that's just any player. He's definitely going to remain positive and keep his faith, so I know no matter what he does after this, he's going to give his all and his personality is great."
Franklin was one of three Packers' players to suffer a serious neck injury last season. The other two players -- tight end Jermichael Finley and defensive tackle Johnny Jolly -- are currently out of football.
Since 2000, the Packers have had at least nine players suffer significant neck injuries. Of that group -- safety Gary Berry, receiver Terrence Murphy, offensive lineman Tony Palmer, defensive end/outside linebacker Jeremy Thompson, safety Nick Collins, safety Sean Richardson, Finley, Jolly and Franklin -- only Richardson has returned to play.
Like Franklin, Murphy, a second-round pick in 2005, suffered a neck injury as a rookie.
Franklin missed the entire offseason program and did not attend the final minicamp practice.
Word that the Packers were concerned that Franklin would not be able to return first came on Wednesday, when two sources told ESPN.com that Franklin's football future was in jeopardy.