ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --** In the last three seasons, Orlando Franklin got adjusted to right tackle, a position at which he never started during four seasons at the University of Miami.
But the notion of a move inside never left his mind, and when he was informed that he would be moving to left guard, he was prepared to accept the shift.
"I always understood it was a possibility," Franklin said. "I knew when I was coming out that 50 percent of teams saw me at right tackle and 50 percent of the teams saw me moving back to guard because I played so many snaps there at Miami."
Franklin started more games at left guard (22) than left tackle (13) for the Hurricanes, and did not move outside until the last regular-season game of his junior season. With his experience, the move inside is a natural fit.
That doesn't mean he was initially thrilled at the news.
"When I first heard about it, you get disappointed, because you're moving positions," he said, "but at the end of the day, as long as I'm on the field and as long as I'm one of the best five, I'm happy with that."
And that was the impetus behind the shift. Franklin's positional flexibility offered the chance to move Chris Clark to right tackle after his successful replacement of the injured Ryan Clady last year. Franklin's move to left guard, allows the Broncos to get their best five linemen on the field in the wake of Zane Beadles' free-agent departure.
But as Franklin noted, "Nothing's definite." Last Friday, Executive Vice President and General Manager John Elway said that the team would "look at all of the different options" to put together its offensive-line alignment.
"If I'm one of the best five players and I'm on the field, I think that benefits me either way, whether I'm playing right tackle or whether I'm playing left guard," he said.
Franklin's contract expires after this season, and this offers him a chance to reaffirm his flexibility. And he has a much better chance of earning league honors, particularly the Pro Bowl, which selects tackles and guards without regard to left/right alignment. Thus, the Pro Bowl rosters are flooded with left tackles, leaving the right side ignored. Now, he'll be on even footing. That could help him at contract time, no matter where his future lies.
But the Pro Bowl is a long-term goal. The first is re-adjusting to left guard.
"I really won't know if I'm a good left guard in this league until in a few weeks, when I get to go against some D-tackles in this league," he said. "The footwork is pretty much similar. It's different putting my hand down but you talk about tracks as offensive lineman and the tracks are all the same. It's just learning how your center's going to set as opposed to how your guard's going to set when I was out there at tackle."
But as he adjusts, there's one aspect of his old spot he cannot leave behind: his last game at right tackle. The defining moment came when Cliff Avril pushed him back toward Peyton Manning, the pressure forcing an errant pass that Malcolm Smith intercepted and returned 69 yards for a touchdown.
It wasn't the only painful moment for Franklin, who finds that he doesn't need to re-watch the game to re-live it.
"I mean, I know there's about five plays in that game where I'll never forget those plays, so I can see them in my head every day," Franklin said.
"I definitely didn't have my best game. So I definitely look at it as a learning tool. I look back at it as a learning situation and I've got to get better. I definitely work, I'm working a little bit harder on different things that I was exposed in in that game."The position change and Super Bowl XLVIII add up to an offseason unlike any other Franklin has known: more time watching film, more time with the playbook, more time working on communication with his new neighbors, Clady and Manny Ramirez.
It's more of everything. And if Franklin flourishes at left guard, he's shown the ability to contribute in more ways, which would make him a more valued commodity than ever.