Bubba Franks’ 2008 was not the highlight of the venerable tight end’s career. Even Bubba said so.
"I got hurt pretty early, so I was kind of like a fan. I had to sit back and watch," Franks told me last week after an OTA practice. "I disliked sitting on the sideline or even standing. It’s something I really never had to do. Then all of a sudden you’re on the sideline pretty much watching the rest of the games.
"That just didn’t sit well with me. So I’m back here for unfinished business. I’ve got work to do . I’ve got a lot of things I need to prove."
It’s hard not to like Franks. He’s not afraid to converse in a vernacular that fans understand. A lot of players back away from talk about unfinished business and proving things. Franks embraces it.
And why not? The Franks we saw last year was not the Bubba of his first eight NFL seasons with Green Bay. His six catches and 47 yards were both career lows. He had no touchdown catches in a season for only the second time.
Then there was his health. In six of his first seven seasons, he rarely came off the frozen tundra. But last season, after injuring his hip on a slip in Game 6 at Oakland, he sat out eight of the last 10 games, getting in for about 20 plays without a catch in each of the December Buffalo and Seattle games.
Despite the understated debut in Green & White and his supposed venture into unrestricted free agency, there had always been a hint that he was coming back. For instance, his stall in the Atlantic Health Training Center locker room was never dismantled. Franks confirmed to me that he was figuring all along to return for Year 2.
"I was coming back all along. It was just a matter of I had to do some training down in Miami, clean up a couple of loose ends here and there," he said. "Then when they told me to come up here, I’m here. We had already discussed all that. I knew I was coming back."
The cleaning-up, head coach Rex Ryan said last week, involved another body part besides Franks’ hip.
"Bubba has a little thing with his knee. We don’t think it’s serious. Obviously we wouldn’t have signed him if that was the case," Ryan said. "The thing I’m really impressed with is the kind of leader he is, a charismatic guy. You can tell that his teammates really like him and he’s really a pro. Ed Reed called me about him, and he’s a guy whose opinion I value, and he certainly wasn’t wrong with Bubba."
That’s why Franks will probably continue to watch the Jets play some more from the sideline through the rest of OTAs and the June 9-11 full-squad minicamp, then begin practicing again at the start of training camp. For now, after the departure of Chris Baker for points northeast, he’s tutoring the rest of the team’s tight ends, a young lot consisting of second-year man Dustin Keller, newly converted Kareem Brown and undrafted free agents Andrew Davie, Rob Myers, Jack Simmons and J’Nathan Bullock.
"Most of them don’t know too much about the position. They’re young, just coming in now," said the grizzled vet. "Plus you’re only as strong as your weakest link. They’re going to be a part of this core group. We’ve got to be pretty close. They’re a bunch of good guys. Some of them area little more talented than others, but I think it’s all going to come down to how quick they can pick up the offense.
"You can’t really show what you’ve got until you know what you’re doing."
Franks knows what he’s doing and what he’s about, even though, as I kidded him, this will be his first NFL season without Brett Favre as his quarterback, whether as a Packer or a Jet.
"It’s definite. He’s not going to be back, so this’ll be my first year without him," Franks said with a chuckle. "I don’t know how it’s going to feel, but hey, we’ll see what happens."
Tags: Brett Favre, Bubba Franks, Chris Baker, Dustin Keller, Ed Reed, Rex Ryan
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