Johnathan Franklin couldnít remember the last time he suited up for a football game and didnít play.
However, thatís the situation UCLAís all-time leading rusher found himself in during the Green Bay Packersí 34-28 loss to San Francisco last Sunday. Along with backup quarterback Seneca Wallace, the 5-foot-10, 205-pound running back was one of only two active Packers who didnít step onto the field against the 49ers.
Itís a wicked change of pace from Franklinís days with the Bruins where he didnít miss a game in four years with 45 starts in 53 career appearances. The last time he didnít carry the ball in a game? A 23-13 win over Arizona State on Nov. 21, 2009, although he had two receptions in the game.
After being the Packersí third fourth-round selection in Aprilís draft, many expected Franklin to press second-round rookie Eddie Lacy for playing time, but thatís yet to be the case.
Franklin often sputtered in the preseason both in the backfield (21 carries for 47 yards, 2.2 yards per carry and in pass protection. His longest camp carry went for seven years as running backs coach Alex Van Pelt acknowledged his rookie back was pressing at times.
Despite the slow start, Van Pelt believes heíll still figure into the run game this season. The Packers will need him, too. Lacy stands to be the face of the Packersí run game, but veteran power backs James Starks and John Kuhn are the only two other backs on the roster.
ďIt allows him to come a little slower. Itís not as rushed to get him ready to go,Ē Van Pelt said. ďI think he is ready. I think he will help us this year. Heíll definitely contribute on the offensive side of the ball. Heís got a unique talent and ability in space. Going into that San Fran game, it was probably good for him to sit and kind of watch the other guys. As the season goes on, heíll probably ask more of him.Ē
Franklin isnít hanging his head. The Packers and coach Mike McCarthy donít like going into games with only two natural backs, so itís likely heíll again be active this Sunday against Washington.
If his number is called, Franklin is ready. If not, heíll continue to be the best cheerleader he can.
The key is seizing the next opportunity that present itself and proving he was worth the Packers trading back into the fourth round to acquire his services nearly five months ago.
ďI ainít got no time to be down, ainít got no time to be disappointed,Ē Franklin said. ďIím going to enjoy this life and be blessed. Iím living the dream, regardless of whether I was out there last week or not. So many people would love to be in my shoes, but theyíre not. So all I can do is do my part, praying and keep living life.
ďLife is a struggle. I had my hard times at UCLA, as well.Ē
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