Nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin is still missing from the San Francisco 49ers training camp. Early on, this was not that big a problem, but now, with only a couple more weeks remaining in the preseason, Franklin's holdout is a major issue.
Head coach Mike Singletary is on record as saying he is focused on the players that are in camp. However, Aubrayo Franklin is such a big part of the defense that his absence is sure to have a negative impact.
Ricky Jean-Francois has done an admirable job filling in; however, he's no Aubrayo Franklin. Franklin is such a strong presence on the defensive line that opponents usually send both the center and a guard to block him. By occupying two offensive linemen, Franklin's mere presence helps to free up inside linebackers Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes to make tackles and not have to fend off as much blocking.
The 49ers have placed the franchise tag on Franklin which means that he will make around $7 million, if he decides to play. I can understand Franklin wanting to skip a few weeks of the rigorous training camp that Mike Singletary runs. Now, it's time for him to get back to work.
My chief concern is that if Franklin does not report soon, he will enter the season without sufficient time to get his body ready for the constant pounding of an NFL season. This reminds me of the holdout by former Niner star Julian Peterson. He reported very late in 2004 and suffered a torn Achilles tendon early in the season.
I have to think there was a correlation. Peterson underwent surgery and was lost for the year. When he returned in 2005, Peterson had lost the explosiveness that was his trademark. This eventually led to his departure to Seattle as a free agent following the 2005 season.
Aubrayo Franklin is risking more than money with this extended holdout. If he chooses to pass up the $7 million he would receive this season, that's his business. However, he will also be subjecting himself to greater risk of injury, should he continue to be absent, then try to play without sufficient preparation time.
Franklin is an impact player on the 49er defense and there are seven million reasons for him to be with the team. He is a seven year NFL veteran and is well respected by his teammates. For the Niners to have the best chance to make the playoffs, Aubrayo Franklin needs to be on the field.
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