The Word: Training Camp Day 24

Thompson optimistic on Franks, team overall; Bigby's stock soars, Martin's drops

For those who feel Bubba Franks will be released anytime soon by the Green Bay Packers, think again. General manager Ted Thompson said today that he and his staff have all the confidence in the world that the veteran tight end will bounce back from two consecutive sub-par seasons.

Franks followed a solid week of practice last week by catching all four passes thrown in his direction on Saturday night. Three of Franks' catches came in the second Packers series, which led to a field goal by Mason Crosby. Franks left the game in the second quarter after taking a shot to the stomach and having the wind knocked out of him, but he said afterward that he was fine.

"I'm sure he was excited to get a few balls thrown in his direction," said Thompson. "He made some nice catches. But there's not a lot of doubt amongst the people in the football department about Bubba. We think we know he's a good solid football player. For whatever reason, it just didn't go well for him the last year or two. But like I said before, I think he's going to have a bounce-back year. He's playing very hard. He's blocking well, and he's catching the ball and he can get the ball upfield after he catches it. I was pleased with that. I wasn't necessarily surprised."

Franks has been held to 25 catches in each of the last two seasons and one touchdown, a far cry from his production during his Pro Bowl seasons from 2001-03.

The Packers, who finished two-a-day practices for the preseason on Thursday, practiced inside the Don Hutson Center on Monday evening due to cool and damp conditions outside. Here are a few notes from the no pads practice:

Offensive Plays of the Day
The Packers are hoping to get more out of their tight ends this season, and both Donald Lee and Bubba Franks continued to show that they are ready to play a bigger role.

Lee and Franks both displayed good hands and route-running ability in the practice. Lee made an impressive catch of a pass from Brett Favre while falling to the ground in front of safety Alvin Nnabuife for a 15-yard gain over the middle during a team scrimmage. Franks capped a 7-on-7 drill by stretching the middle of the field and catching a laser from Aaron Rodgers at the end of the period.

Defensive Play of the Day
With no pads, the defense is limited in team and 7-on-7 drills, so big plays are few and far between. But veteran cornerback Charles Woodson came up with a big play when he intercepted a pass over the middle thrown by Ingle Martin that was intended for tight end Joe Werner. Woodson jumped in front of Werner and easily caught the pass.

Stock is Up
Atari Bigby, the goat of Green Bay's first preseason game, continued his bid to unseat Marquand Manuel as the starter at strong safety on Monday night. Bigby practiced with the first-team defense ahead of Manuel and will start in the Packers exhibition game Thursday night against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Lambeau Field.

McCarthy fell short of naming Bigby as starter for the opener, but if he plays like he did on Saturday night, that may be the case for the regular season opener Sept. 9 against Philadelphia. Bigby had two sacks and a quarterback pressure in the first half against Seattle. His second-quarter sack of Seneca Wallace and forced fumble turned into a touchdown.

"We're going to roll (Bigby) and Marquand, just like we did this past game, except (Bigby) will run out for the first snap," said McCarthy. "Very good competition."

Many were ready to ship Bigby out of Green Bay after the first exhibition game against Pittsburgh. Bigby allowed wide receiver Walter Young to break free for a touchdown early in the game. Though he was not to blame, Bigby was helping to defend on a 49-yard completion to Santonio Holmes that led to a Steelers' field goal.

Stock is Down
If the regular season began today, the Packers probably would have a new third-string quarterback behind Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. Ingle Martin and Paul Thompson have both been equally woeful in their ability to complete passes in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills.

It wouldn't be a big surprise to see the Packers release Martin at the end of this preseason and place the more athletic Thompson on the practice squad. It's not uncommon to see either quarterback throw interceptions in 7-on-7 and 11-on-11 drills. When they are not getting picked off by the defense, both quarterbacks have been overthrowing or underthrowing receivers.

Martin, who was selected in the fifth round of the 2006 NFL draft by the Packers, spent all of last season as the team's third-string quarterback. If he is going to stick with the team this year, he'll have to make the best of his opportunities Thursday against Jacksonville and in the preseason finale Aug. 30 at Tennessee.

He said it:
"I think we have more competition at more positions than in the past, which I think theoretically will lead to a better team, if we put these players in the right positions and we make the right decisions. So I feel pretty good about the team. Most of these guys are football guys. They enjoy playing the game. They're playing it obviously to take care of their families and themselves. But I think they're also playing it for the team, and we like the group of fellas, the people. They come from all walks of life, but I like the group. I like being around them and standing on the sideline with them."
General manager Ted Thompson on how he feels about this team relative to the last two seasons

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