The nine week off-season program for the Green Bay Packers, beginning with individualized personal workouts, the rookie orientation camp, organized team activities and the mandatory mini-camp wrapped up Thursday with a final practice. Head Coach Mike McCarthy cut loose everyone with more than 5 years experience, leaving the last workout for the young players.
The running backs pushed through the gauntlet in this drill.
McCarthy capped the off-season with a sad bit of information. Second year running back Johnathan Franklin will not be back with the team and his career is likely over after he suffered a neck injury during his rookie season. The 5th round pick out of UCLA made a splash against the Cincinnati Bengals, rushing for 101 yards and scoring his first pro touchdown. His late game fumble was returned for the winning touchdown by the Bengals. In week 11, Franklin injured his neck returning a kickoff against the Minnesota Vikings. He was eventually placed on injured reserve and he wasn't able to participate in any of the off-season workouts. After a recent examination, Franklin was advised to give up football for fear of further, possibly permanent damage. Through his Twitter account, Franklin released the following statement:
"Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; Our God has purpose, and paths set for all of us. First off, I would like to thank everyone who has supported me upon getting to this part of my life,it has been a tremendous blessing. Unfortunately this week I have been ruled out of returning for the 2014/15 season and returning to play in the NFL. But I understand God knows what he is doing and for now he has another platform for me to step upon. I ask that you all pray for me during this transition, I will stay strong and keep my peace through Christ because he is my guider. But thank you all and God bless."
The news hit the locker room hard. Eddie Lacy, like Franklin, a rookie last year, said it's hard to see a career end just like that. McCarthy said Franklin was one of the most upbeat personalities to ever walk through Lambeau, he was a class act and he handled the entire ordeal from injury to the ultimate decision with class.
As for the rest of the team, McCarthy did not give them a specific message to take home in the five week break before training camp begins, but he did say a new attitude will be required upon their return.
Audio: Mike McCarthy
As the players huddled up after the final whistle on Ray Nitschke Field Thursday, the coach sent them boys over the grandstand to thank the fans for coming out to watch.
We'll see them again when they check in to St. Norbert College for the start of training camp on July 25. First practice is Saturday, July 26.