GREEN BAY—A neck injury has cost the Packers another promising player.
“I have some unfortunate news on Johnathan Franklin,” Head Coach Mike McCarthy told reporters on Thursday, following the final practice of the spring. “He will not be back with us. He’s as classy a young man as has walked through these doors. His situation will be addressed tomorrow by the organization.”
Franklin, a fourth-round draft choice in 2013, sustained a neck injury that ended the running back’s rookie season in late November. He was a non-participant in practices this spring. Apparently, recent medical tests revealed a problem or risk that couldn’t be overcome.
It was discouraging news with which the Packers ended a spring that was on nearly all other accounts a success. McCarthy gave the offseason his seal of approval as he bid farewell to the media until the start of training camp.
“We feel confident we hit those targets. I feel very good about it. Particularly on defense, our quality of work was definitely improved. We feel good about what’s in,” McCarthy said.
Defense would seem to have been the star of the spring. It’s the side of the ball on which the Packers need the most improvement, and at the start of OTAs McCarthy went so far as to make a “big letters” guarantee of improvement on defense this season.
Micah Hyde moved from cornerback to safety and is likely to begin training camp in that spot. Free-agent acquisition Julius Peppers moved from defensive end to outside linebacker and would seem to be the main reason for a brighter outlook on that side of the ball.
“I thought he had an excellent spring,” McCarthy said of Hyde. “I thought Micah did a heckuva job in the offseason.”
What about Clay Matthews, Nick Perry and Jerel Worthy, none of whom practiced in the spring? Will they be recovered from their injuries in time for the start of training camp?
“Gee, I hope so,” McCarthy said.
Matthews is the Packers’ star pass rusher and his recovery from two surgeries on the same thumb will go a long way toward improvement on defense. A Matthews-Peppers pass-rush combination is the one-two punch on which the Packers are depending.
Proven depth abounds at nearly all of the offensive positions, except for tight end, where Jermichael Finley remains unsigned and Andrew Quarless missed spring drills due to an undisclosed injury, and that makes third-round draft pick Richard Rodgers an important prospect.
“I thought he picked up the scheme very well. I thought he was very productive. The tight end group, the new guys made a big impression,” McCarthy said.
The Packers’ final practice of the spring was limited to young players, as veterans were excused from the practice and allowed to begin their summer a day early. Backup quarterback Scott Tolzien would seem to have been the star of Thursday’s practice.
“Today’s practice is exactly what we look for. Scott Tolzien got a lot better today. This practice was a focus on the younger players, getting them reps and getting them ready for training camp,” McCarthy said.
“Mentally, we wait for nobody. Training camp is different. We put the pads on and the environment is different. The environment is electric.” Additional coverage - June 19 minicamp