The 49ers’ veterans were supposed to check in between 8 and 9:30 this morning. The period came and went with no sign of NT Aubrayo Franklin, the Niners’ unhappy franchise player.
The team was not yet marking Franklin as officially absent, with meetings set to begin at 10:30. But as training camp gets set for kickoff with an afternoon practice tomorrow, it is looking less and less likely that the eighth-year veteran will begin the summer campaign with the 49ers. He would net about $7 million by signing his franchise tender, but presumably wants a long-term deal instead.
Franklin is not technically a holdout, because he isn’t under contract. His agent, Todd France, did not immediately answer calls and e-mails.
In the locker room, Franklin’s teammates sounded ready to move forward without their starting nose tackle, while still praising and supporting him.
“There’s no mistaking about it: Aubrayo is one of a kind,” linebacker Patrick Willis said. “I love playing with Aubrayo. At the same time, I know this is a business and, at the end of the day, we have to work with who we have here. I know everything is going to work itself out and that’s out of my control. If I could snap my fingers, and make him be here, I would. But I can’t.”
Asked if he anticipated getting more work at nose tackle with Franklin in limbo, Isaac Sopoaga quickly backed away from the idea of taking the job.
“The big fella, that’s his area,” Sopoaga said. “He own it. I honestly believe that Aubrayo is the best nose tackle. He knows what’s on the field. He knows how to handle it. He’s a good guy, a smart guy and tough guy, too.”
Sopoaga wouldn’t guess at when Franklin might show up. But he was confident that the three-year starter would be back when the 49ers really needed him.
“Just come up a couple hours before the game starts, fresh off from his bed, and I know he’s ready,” Sopoaga said.