In the wake of Brian Urlacher's hamstring injury, which will likely keep him on the shelf the remainder of the season, the Chicago Bears needed to add depth to the linebacker position. To that end, the club signed rookie Jerry Franklin this week.
Franklin is a former second-team All-SEC player who started 50 games for Arkansas. His 374 career tackles are third most in UA history.
"I've been playing football since I was a kid in Little League. I idolized the guys in the NFL, hoping that I could reach that level some day," Franklin told Bear Report. "I began in college as a safety. Then I was switched to linebacker, a position that better suits my abilities. I like the physicality of the position. I had more success at Arkansas at the linebacker position than at safety. It just felt like a better fit."
Following a senior season in which he finished sixth in the SEC in tackles, Franklin was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Denver Broncos. He then bounced between the Carolina Panthers and Dallas Cowboys before ending up in Chicago.
"We all know there is no better linebacker than Brian Urlacher," said Franklin. "To be on the same team with him now, that's a dream come true."
Now with his fourth team in his rookie season, dealing with the transition of a new home every month is something to which Franklin is still adjusting.
"You'd think that there would be a lot of commonalities in the NFL but I've found that isn't true at all," he said. "Each team has a very specific approach and a unique system. As the new guy, you need to soak all of that in almost immediately.
"The terminology is always different too. That is why you count on the guy lining up next to you to help out a little until you get adjusted to the new system. I've spent a lot of overtime in practice sessions trying to get up to speed. I appreciate the time my teammates have spent just talking to me, helping me learn how things work around here. That helps me relax and settle in."
Known as a big hitter in college, Franklin believes his skill set will fit well in Chicago's Cover 2 system.
"I think that I'm best at reaction time. I'm quick off the ball and can get after a passer. I'm also a fast learner, which in my situation, playing with different teams, has been something very important."
If he can impress Chicago's coaching staff, particularly special teams coordinator Dave Toub, Franklin could catch on with the Bears, who signed him to a two-year deal. Staying in the Windy City for the next few years is a scenario he can get behind.
"I'd love to have the chance to stop moving around all the time," he said. "Every time my phone rings, I wonder where I'll be going next. I'd like to live in the same city, hang out with the same teammates, work with the same team for more than a month at a time.
"I feel so many possibilities now that I am with this team. My whole reason for being in the NFL is to make it into the playoffs and the Super Bowl. The Bears have the talent to reach that goal. All I want is the opportunity to show that I can help this team win."
Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.