Franks' struggles against the Minnesota Vikings last Thursday summed up his season, one which he and the Packers had high expectations. The Pro Bowl tight end fumbled the ball away at the 1 yard line in an attempt to score his first touchdown. He also dropped a pass and fumbled a ball out of bounds on a different occasion.
Franks, who turns 29 on Jan. 6, seems slower, and his once reliable hands have been anything but reliable. He has dropped a number of passes, leaving him with just 25 catches, fifth on the team.
While it's frustrating for Packers fans to see Franks struggle, how about showing a little respect to a first-round draft pick that actually has lived up to his billing. Selected 14th overall by the Packers in 2000, Franks played in three Pro Bowls for the Packers and ranks second among all-time Packers tight ends in catches (238) behind Paul Coffman's 322. Off the field, Franks has been impressive in the community, often donating his time to charities throughout the Northeastern Wisconsin area. His teammates recently honored him as the Packers' 2006 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year for his service in the community.
Before you kick Franks when he's down, think for a moment. Franks has given plenty to the Packers and people of northeast Wisconsin. He's not up to par this season with his receiving, but he has done everything else that Mike McCarthy has asked of him as far as helping protect Brett Favre better with the young offensive linemen.
Think you're frustrated. Nobody is more frustrated than Franks himself. After the game Thursday, he made no excuses for his mistakes, instead vowing to get better. What more do you want?
Still, a Milwaukee radio station played a sound bite that made Franks sound as if he didn't understand the word "plane" when asked if he thought he broke the plane of the goal line when he fumbled the ball away late in the game against the Vikings. Franks simply may have misunderstood the question. He was interviewed by dozens of reporters afterward, including this one. He stood up and politely answered questions from everyone, even though he obviously was ticked off at himself. Many pro athletes, no matter what the sport, would have chosen to duck reporters after a lousy game, win or lose. Franks didn't.
The Packers likely will be seeking tight ends in the off-season to improve the position. Franks may be asked to accept a reduced salary, or he may be released from his contract so the team can create more salary cap space. That's the way it is in the what-have-you –done-for-me-lately NFL.
In the meantime, McCarthy is convinced that Franks can still help the Packers, and so am I. Will he be better than what he has shown this season? Let's hope so. More importantly, let's give him a little encouragement instead of trying to kick him when he's down.
"We need Bubba Franks," said McCarthy. "Bubba Franks is an important member of our football team. He's the leader of the tight end group, he's viewed as one of the leaders on offense. If he didn't have history, you may think differently, but you're looking at a player that has done it before. He's had a couple tough stretches as far as games throughout the season, but we need him to bounce back, because we're going to need him to beat Chicago."
I admit that I'm biased toward Franks because of his accomplishments on and off the field for the Packers since 2000. Let's hope he bounces back and let's give him a little more respect. He deserves it.
Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report. E-mail him at email@example.com.