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Green Bay Packers' Johnathan Franklin to retire because of neck injury

After one NFL season and a mere 19 carries, the career of Green Bay Packers running back Johnathan Franklin apparently is over. Head coach Mike McCarthy said Franklin will "not be with us" following the diagnosis of a serious neck injury.

The second-year back, a fourth-round pick out of UCLA in 2013, confirmed the news on Twitter.

Franklin got off to a slow start as a rookie last season and took a back seat to Eddie Lacy but had his shining moment — and his greatest pre-injury heartbreak — as a pro in the Packers' 34-30 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, rushing for 103 yards on 13 carries with a 51-yard run and a two-yard touchdown. He also added three catches for 23 yards but lost a fumble on 4th-and-1 from the Bengals' 30-yard line with just over four minutes remaining that was run back for a touchdown for the game-winning score.

Franklin ended up on injured reserve with the neck injury in Week 12. After doctors looked further at the injury, it was deemed to be more serious than originally thought. It was suggested to Franklin that he end his playing career.

McCarthy praised his suddenly retired back, whom the team likely soon will cut.

"I can't say enough about him as a person," McCarthy said. "He's as classy of a young man that's walked through these doors. Anybody that's had a chance to get to know him, just on and off the field, he's a class act.

College and pro teammate Datone Jones, who entered the league with Franklin, was hit hard by the news.

"To see him work so hard to actually make his dream come true and make it to the NFL, man, it's tough to see it end this way, because I knew how hard he worked," Jones said. "He's a special guy. He was a special guy at UCLA, and not only on the field but off the field. He was very involved off the field. One thing I do know: He has a calling outside of football to lift people and bring people's spirits up. Hopefully he can pursue his dream to become the mayor of L.A."  

The Packers have been oddly cursed by neck injuries in recent years. Both Jermichael Finley and Johnny Jolly, neither of whom are currently signed by an NFL team, suffered neck injuries last season, and the team has had a rash of them in the past decade, including one suffered by defensive back Nick Collins, whose career has ended.

The team's running back stable has taken a hit with the promising Franklin gone but remains strong with Eddie Lacy, James Starks and DuJuan Harris still on the team. Also on the roster: MIchael Hill, plus undrafted rookies Raijon Neal and LaDarius Perkins.

But teammates will miss Franklin. What a reminder how delicate a playing career really is. Hopefully, Franklin can live a pain-free life and find his calling elsewhere.

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Eric Edholm is a writer for Shutdown Corner on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at edholm@yahoo-inc.com or follow him on Twitter!

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