Franklin could return in non-playing role

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Johnathan Franklin stood on the sideline at practice on Monday and had a smile on his face -- just like he always did last season as a rookie running back for the Green Bay Packers.

But this time, it was for a different reason.

It was because one by one, players like Eddie Lacy, Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson approached him on the sideline.

They all wanted to know how Franklin was doing less than two months after the Packers deemed it was no longer safe for him to play football and released him following a neck injury late in his rookie season.

Although the Packers said Franklin was not available to talk to reporters, his smile -- along with what one of his former teammates had to say -- was enough to let everyone know how he’s doing.

"Just seeing him around here, that's the kind of guy he is," said Packers defensive end Datone Jones, who also was a college teammate of Franklin's at UCLA. "He loves football. He loves embracing the team and bringing the team up. He carries an aura with him. He has a gift to brighten people's days. He lets you know that everything is all right and life will go on."

Jones and his teammates might see more of Franklin. Coach Mike McCarthy said the Packers would like to find a non-playing role in the organization for the former fourth-round pick. It would not be the first time a player whose career was cut short because of a neck injury returned in a different capacity. Former receiver Terrence Murphy, who like Franklin was cut down in his rookie season of 2005, returned in 2007 as a coaching intern.

"He's as fine as a young man that's ever walked through these doors in my time here," McCarthy said of Franklin. "It's great to have him back."