The Green Bay Packers have kept several players out of Organized Team Activities and minicamp practices over the past four weeks, including veterans Clay Matthews and Andrew Quarless and young outside linebacker Nick Perry. Another player who has yet to participate in practice is running back Johnathan Franklin.
After suffering a neck injury last season, Franklin was placed on injured reserve and was shut down for the season. Now, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN, we are learning that Franklin's injury may be more serious than initially thought:
The Packers are worried that Franklin's neck injury might be career-threatening. According to two people with knowledge of his situation, the Packers are putting Franklin through more tests to determine whether it's safe for him to continue playing.
Neck injuries are a scary proposition for Packers fans of this generation. We have seen wide receiver Terrence Murphy and Pro Bowl safety Nick Collins suffer neck injuries which ended their football careers. Tight end Jermichael Finley's injury is putting his football future very much in question, while safety Sean Richardson appears to have been lucky and was back on the field late last season after missing much of the year recovering from an injury late in 2012.
Franklin of course burst onto the scene last season against the Bengals, when he rushed for over 100 yards in place of a hobbled James Starks (who in turn was starting for Eddie Lacy, who was out with a concussion). However, Franklin made little impact in any other game, partially due to some struggles in pass protection.
Hopefully the tests that the Packers are running will eventually clear Franklin to play. Until there is a decision, however, Packers coaches, players, and fans will sit and wait to find out more.
If for some reason Franklin cannot play in 2014, the Packers should still have a talented stable of running backs. Lacy earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2013, Starks averaged a remarkable 5.5 yards per carry, and DuJuan Harris has been one of the most impressive players in the 2014 offseason after missing all of last year.