Things aren’t looking up right now for the Carolina Panthers’ biggest “name” acquisition of the offseason, special teams player Aaron Francisco.
A solid contributor to special teams on two Super Bowl teams, Francisco is now being faced with his toughest challenge yet, and it’s not one on the football field, per se.
In his career, there is one play which Francisco will be most remembered for among fans of the Arizona Cardinals, at least. The play where Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Santonio Holmes scored a touchdown, to give the Steelers it’s sixth Super Bowl victory in franchise history. On that play, Francisco tried to push Holmes out of bounds to avoid the score, but it just didn’t happen. It was the result of a missed assignment; no fault of Francisco.
One year later, Francisco found himself with the Super Bowl contending Indianapolis Colts, and for the second consecutive year, played for another team which didn’t win a championship.
After not being re-signed by the Colts, Francisco received interest from about six other teams. Suffice to say, Carolina was one-of-six interested in Francisco, given the team’s paltry 29th-ranked special teams unit from 2009.
As we are all well aware, Carolina went out of it’s way to bring in special teams players via free agency, and Francisco looked to be someone who could play a huge part in reversing the team’s “not-so-special” teams’ woes.
Unfortunately, we have yet to see what and how Francisco might be able to contribute, as he has been nursing — of all things — a hamstring injury.
Yeah, I’m a little concerned. I haven’t been able to show the coaches what I can do. Normally I can push through injuries and play through them, but it’s my first time ever having a hamstring injury. It’s the one thing you can’t push, or it will just set you back even further. –Panthers safety, Aaron Francisco
On August 3 (the sixth day of training camp), Francisco suffered a partial tear to his hamstring. No big deal. On August 18 (the last day of training camp), he attempted a return and further injured the hammy, this time with more serious results. It was his first return from the initial injury during conditioning drills, that the muscle started to bleed and bruise.
By August 25, the bruising had gone away, so naturally Francisco believed it had repaired itself and did what any player trying to make a roster would do, and headed back out to the field. This time he felt intense pain and the bruise was back by the following day.
Carolina head coach John Fox, is hopeful for Francisco’s return before the team has to comply with NFL-mandated roster moves to satisfy the requirements of the final 53-man roster.
We got a pretty good look at him in the OTAs and minicamp, but he’s got some catching up to do. Hopefully, he can do it in the next two weeks. –Panthers head coach, John Fox
Thus-far, Francisco has yet to fully participate in a preseason game with his new team, and with preseason halfway over, it’s looking like his last shot to make any kind of impression could very well be in the team’s final preseason game at Pittsburgh.
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