Franks Leaving Last Year In The Past

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Bubba Franks will be the first to admit he didn't perform at his usual level in 2006. But the eighth-year veteran will be the last to say that he's on the downside of his career.

In visiting with reporters during minicamp this weekend, Franks said he's "on a mission" to be the tight end Packers fans enjoyed watching his first six years in the NFL. The former first-round draft pick didn't make any bold predictions, like he's heading back to the Pro Bowl or going to catch so many touchdowns, but that's not Franks' style.

A straightforward, no-nonsense guy, he simply stated that he's putting last year behind him and doing nothing but looking forward.

"It was just one of those years," said Franks, whose 25 catches for 232 yards and no touchdowns last season were career-lows for a full slate of games played. "You go six years of being as good as you can, and hey, it's just a bump in the road, something that happened. You get it out of your system and you keep moving."

Last year was supposed to be Franks' rebound year after injuries forced him to miss the first six games of his entire career in 2005. But it didn't work out that way.

With a young offensive line, the Packers needed their tight ends to stay in and block more often on pass plays. Opportunities for downfield receptions were more limited for Franks, and when he did get his chances, he dropped far more passes than he ever had.

"One thing about Bubba is he was always sure-handed," said offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who was Franks' tight ends coach in 2004 and 2005. "Last year he seemed to have a lapse in that area."

And a bad year only got worse in the home finale Dec. 21 against Minnesota. While Franks had a season-high five catches for 43 yards, he also fumbled twice. They were the first fumbles since his rookie season in 2000, and one of them came on the goal line, costing the Packers a potential touchdown.

He also was flagged for a critical holding call late in the fourth quarter that wiped out a big gain on a screen pass. It was his first holding call in four years.

"I was just up and down, a little inconsistent here and there, and that's not me," Franks said. "But this year, I'm not going to have a problem with that at all."

{sportsad300}Franks was one of a handful of veterans who didn't participate in the offseason strength and conditioning program that began here March 19. He did that last year, but in an effort to return to his old self, the three-time Pro Bowler went back to his old routine of training at his alma mater, the University of Miami.

He arrived at this weekend's minicamp in good shape and ready to fight for a starting job he has to prove he still deserves. Fellow tight ends Donald Lee and Tory Humphrey were taking as many snaps with the No. 1 offense as Franks in the first few practices, an indication the position is as wide open as it's been during Franks' seven-year run as the starter.

If the open competition was giving Franks any added motivation, he wasn't letting on, at least not verbally. He indicated seeing the Super Bowl come to his hometown of Miami got him a little fired up, and seeing NFC North rival Chicago playing in that game in some ways jumpstarted his offseason.

"He's been working hard," tight ends coach Ben McAdoo said after the first two minicamp practices. "You can tell by the way he's moving out there, he's doing some things well. I'm excited and feel he's going to have another breakout year."

The fact that it would have to be called "another" breakout year certainly doesn't sit well with Franks, because no player ever wants to see his career take the turn his has. But he's also aware of how important that has made 2007 for him.

"This is a critical juncture probably in his career," Philbin said. "I'm sure he'll respond well.

"He's serious about getting back to the level of performance he's accustomed to."

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