Bubba Franks

TE Franks on thin ice

At this point, 2 weeks into training camp, the chances of Bubba Franks regaining his starting tight end job appear to be next to nil.

The issue is whether or not he’ll even be on the Green Bay Packers’ 53-man roster when they’re preparing for the Sept. 9 regular-season opener against the Philadelphia Eagles. With Donald Lee seemingly entrenched as the starting tight end, Franks didn’t help his situation when he dropped an easy pass in Saturday’s preseason opener at Pittsburgh. The drop was a drive killer. He whiffed on a third-and-8 play from the 50 that stalled what had been a productive series by the second-string offense. “Hopefully, he can rebound from that,” Packers director of pro personnel Reggie McKenzie said on Monday. “I think he’s having a solid camp. He hasn’t been dropping a whole bunch of balls, so hopefully that doesn’t become an issue. Hopefully, he’s not pressing. You don’t need to press.”

Franks returns, but shield is a bother

GREEN BAY -- Bubba Franks was back at practice on Monday, wearing a shield under his facemask to provide additional protection for his injured eye.

Franks' new look didn't quite match the sinister black mask that was a hallmark of Jim McMahon's brief tenure with the Packers, but the big tight end didn't much care for it.

"I didn't like it, but I have no choice," Franks said. "I have to get used to it. It's going to be on there, regardless. I felt pretty good out there. After a while, I got used to it, but I still didn't like it. It's going to take a while longer."

Franks scratched his eye last week, and isn't sure how long he'll have to wear the shield.

"Let's just say it wouldn't be a good thing to get poked in the eye again, so I'm going to wear it as long as I have to," Franks said.

Leaner Franks is cooking

Green Bay - Bubba Franks is never going to be Antonio Gates, Todd Heap or Dallas Clark. Never was. Never will be.

The Green Bay Packers are more than aware of that. Finding a tight end with stretch-the-field capability will have to wait for another draft or two.

All they're really after in 2007 is a return of old dependable Bubba. And maybe, just maybe, that Bubba is back.

"I talked to him a little bit before practice today," Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said Tuesday. "He's excited. Looking more like himself."

Notebook: All vets but Franks return to practice

Ten veterans were excused and at least nine players sat out most drills in Thursday's morning practice, leaving the Packers with about three-fourths of a roster.

Coach Mike McCarthy said it's the only time he plans to excuse any veterans during training camp. They had two days off last year, but next Thursday's early practice will be dedicated to game-planning for the preseason opener two days later at Pittsburgh.

"A few guys were disappointed that they weren't on the (excused) list," McCarthy said. "It's not based on their status on the football team. It's clearly based on how many years (six or more) they played in. It's where their bodies are at in their career."

All the veterans except tight end Bubba Franks practiced in the night session.

Franks, on a one-a-day practice schedule because of a troublesome knee, was scratched in the eye during a team drill Tuesday night. An exam Thursday showed the injury is 90 percent healed, McCarthy said, and the team hopes he'll practice today.


Packers: Bubba looks to bounce back

GREEN BAY — Ascertaining exactly what went wrong for Bubba Franks last season is a difficult task these days.

Like politics and religion at a cocktail party, talking about why the veteran tight end struggled so mightily in 2006 is near the top of the list of taboo conversational topics — right below specifics about injuries — around the Green Bay Packers this training camp.

"Last year is last year," tight ends coach Ben McAdoo said after a recent practice. "I'm not going to spend a lot of time talking about last year."

General manager Ted Thompson, meanwhile, would only say Franks "would be the first to admit he had a down year last year, and we're looking for a little bit of a bounce-back."

Packers preview: End result? More disappointment for Franks

GREEN BAY - We would appreciate it if you would keep reading, but to understand just how meaningless some of the things coaches say in these position-by-position previews leading up to training camp are, one need look no further than at the Green Bay Packers' tight end position in 2006.

Entering camp, veteran Bubba Franks was convinced the tight ends would be more involved in the team's offense, having seen evidence during the club's offseason minicamp and organized team activity practices of the various ways he and his colleagues would be used.

On top of that, Franks was sure he would rebound from a disappointing 2005, when he missed much of training camp while negotiations lagged on a seven-year, $28 million deal and ended up with then-career lows in receptions (25), yards (207) and touchdowns (one) in 10 injury-plagued games. After all, his former position coach, Jeff Jagodzinski, had returned as the offensive coordinator under new coach Mike McCarthy.

"He's going to be more involved. He will be," said Jagodzinski, who coached Franks to the Pro Bowl in 2001 (36 catches, 322 yards, a career-best nine touchdowns), 2002 (career-high 54 receptions for 442 yards and seven TDs) and in 2003 (30-241-7). "Look at when I was here before. See if he was involved. He'll be involved. He doesn't need to worry."

Throw the Ball to Bubba Franks

How important is it for QB Brett Favre to throw to the tight end? It would seem very important for him to involve the Packers' tight ends in the passing game, especially in the red zone, but it isn't as important as you might think. There does not seem to be a relationship between TD passes thrown to the tight end and Favre's success over the course of an entire season.

Football Outsiders had a good post this week discussing the goal line pass to the tight end. The two plays described by Mike Tanier, the goal line rollout option and the gonzo corner, are both plays Favre has ran often in his career. Tanier might not be describing the exact same play from either Mike Holmgren or Mike Sherman's playbook, but Favre has usually thrown to the tight end at the back of the end zone, near the goal posts, and after some play action or a short rollout. What Mike McCarthy's preferred play call for the tight end is somewhat of a mystery because only two TD passes were thrown to tight ends in 2006, both to ex-Packer TE David Martin.

Favre has never used the tight end as a significant weapon to gain yardage. TE Mark Chmura only caught over 500 yards in two of his seven seasons. Since 2001, the leading tight end in receiving yards usually is the fifth leading receiver, far behind the top three WRs and slightly behind one of the running backs. Only in 2002 was TE Bubba Franks the team's 3rd leading receiver and he set his career high with 442 yards receiving.

Franks' starting days may be over

Bubba Franks tried to fend off the question before it was asked.

Before a reporter reached Franks' locker on Thursday afternoon, the Green Bay Packers' tight end offered this: "I don't want to talk about being on the second team."

Yet on the second day of the voluntary organized team activities — and the first session that was open to reporters — Franks' apparent demotion stood out.

When the No. 1 offense took the field for the first time during a team period, Franks was on the sideline. The Packers opened in a two-tight end set, and the first reps went to Donald Lee and Tory Humphrey. On the next play, fullback Brandon Miree replaced Humphrey, leaving Lee on the field. Franks got only a handful of reps during the team periods of Thursday's two-hour practice.

Is Packers' Bubba on the bubble?

When the Green Bay Packers lost tight end David Martin to the Miami Dolphins via free agency it seemed as if the departure boosted the stock of veteran Bubba Franks, who had lost ground to Martin at the position last season.

But not so fast. According to a recent report by the Green Bay Press Gazette, Bubba might be on the bubble. The story had the Packers considering making some cuts from among a group consisting of Franks, wide receiver Robert Ferguson, defensive end Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila and strong safety Marquand Manuel.

It doesn't take long to fall from the penthouse to the outhouse in the NFL, and Franks is a good example.

Packers' Bubba Franks in Danger of Being Released

Not long ago, Bubba Franks was viewed as the Packers franchise tight end. Now, Franks is fighting not only for playing time, but a roster spot.

There are no assurances that Franks, the Packers' first-round pick in 2000, will make Green Bay's final 53-man roster. In recent seasons, the Packers have sought to upgrade the position and, in the team's most recent minicamp, Green Bay had Donald Lee and Tory Humphrey working with the first-team offense.

The Packers also tried to work in this year's seventh-round pick, former Rutgers tight end Clark Harris, but he dropped a couple of passes.

Franks is coming off a season in which he dropped enough passes to jeopardize his standing this season. He was not as reliable as a team would like its tight end to be. It is the reason that, even before training camp begins, Franks is on the bubble. He needs to do a better job holding on to the football and to fend off the competition that the Packers are going to throw at him this summer.


Franks faces challenge after disappointing season

GREEN BAY, Wis. — Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy says no starting jobs were won or lost during the team's three-day minicamp over the weekend.

That's good news for Bubba Franks, who had to share a significant amount of practice time as the first-team tight end with Donald Lee.

After failing to catch a single touchdown during a disappointing 2006 season, Franks knows he will have to compete for playing time this year and says he's returning with a fresh attitude.

The veteran went home to Miami to clear his head in the offseason. After some introspection, he admits he was being selfish last year.

"I'm more of a team player now," Franks said. "I think last year, it got to the point where I was thinking about myself. I was selfish. It comes a time in a person's career where you think you're the only one out there. But I wasn't. This year, it's going to be totally different."

Packers: Franks sees the errors of his way

GREEN BAY - Bubba Franks blames himself.

Sure, the Green Bay Packers' veteran tight end couldn't control a few things that happened to him last season - how often he was used as essentially an extra offensive lineman to help in pass protection, or how the new coaching staff took more of a liking to David Martin's skill set - but Franks admits it was his fault for not rolling with the changes better.

"It didn't matter (what the coaches did). It was the way I took it," Franks said during a break in the team's mandatory full-squad minicamp Saturday. "Regardless of what they throw at you, it's the way you take it."

Which is why Franks is apparently taking perhaps the biggest non-Brett Favre news of this camp - that he's no longer the Packers' starting tight end after holding the job since being taken in the first round of the 2000 draft - as a challenge rather than an affront.

Open Job? Bubba Frank Update

Bubba Franks has been the Packers' starting tight end since his rookie year of 2000, but the coaching staff sent him a signal at minicamp Friday that he'll have to win back that job this year after his disappointing 2006 performance.

Donald Lee took the first snap of each drill with the No. 1 offense, and Tory Humphrey appeared to work ahead of Franks at times also. Lee, Humphrey and Zac Alcorn all have been taking part in the Packers' offseason workout program beginning March 19.

"They've been working all offseason; I don't have any problems with them in there right now," Franks said. "It's not a problem."

Franks, who caught only 25 passes and had no touchdowns last season, said he went back to the offseason workout program of his first six NFL seasons after staying in Green Bay and taking part in the Packers' offseason workout program last year. Franks is one of about 20 players who attended the University of Miami and return there in the spring and summer to work out in a competitive atmosphere with their college strength coach.

"You go back to doing something that works when things go wrong," Franks said. "… This year, I'm on a mission. There's nothing that's going to get in my way."


Franks will get chance to bounce back

Bubba Franks' lack of production the past two seasons has been perplexing, but the veteran tight end might have a bigger role in the offense in 2007.

Franks has 29 touchdowns and has been to three Pro Bowls in his seven years in the NFL. He became one of the highest-paid tight ends in the league when he signed a seven-year, $28 million deal before the 2005 season.

In 2005, injuries forced Franks to miss six games, and he had just 25 catches for 207 yards and one touchdown.

The 2006 season was worse. Franks, who gained notoriety because of his nose for the end zone, became more known for dropping passes and fumbling. He finished the season with 25 catches for 232 yards and no touchdowns.