While the 49ers continue to work on a long-term contract for nose tackle Aubrayo Franklin, they also are wondering if they have a long-term backup on the roster. Second-year player Ricky Jean-Francois lined up exclusively on the nose during the team's practices on Monday and Tuesday. A seventh-round pick last year, Jean-Francois mostly played defensive end during his rookie season. The 49ers wanted to see how he looked at the nose prior to a draft in which there are a number of nose tackle prospects.
"My coach said I'll be playing a lot more nose because they're trying to use my ability, my quickness and speed at that position," he said. "Because a lot of guys on the inside are not as quick as me." Jean-Francois stands 6-3 and weighs 305. He is not the prototypical space eater who plays the position, but neither is Franklin, who stands 6-1 and weighs 317 pounds. Franklin's game is built on quickness and intelligence, and Jean-Francois said he's been trying to soak up everything he can. "Since the first day I followed everything he did," he said. "I was trying to keep my game, but at the same time I found myself mirroring him."
The 49ers have made Franklin their franchise player but he has yet to sign the franchise tender. In the meantime the two sides are continuing to discuss a long-term deal.
It has been a busy, and in many ways, a terrible offseason for Jean-Francois, whose father emigrated from Haiti to Miami in the mid 1970s. Immediately following the Jan. 12 earthquake that devastated that country's capital, Port-au-Prince, Jean-Francois couldn't locate his grandmother. He finally did but also learned that four of his father's cousins were dead. Jean-Francois, who has been rallying support in South Florida for funds and supplies for Haiti, said he plans to travel there when the 49ers take a break this summer.
Jean-Francois is an extremely energetic and likable guy. (see: below) He said that the Haiti earthquake has made him far more aware of earthquakes in general, and he noted that Chile was struck with an even bigger jolt in February. "There have been different ones all over," he said. "So I started getting geeky and started trying to find out why all these earthquakes are happening. I had to become a geek, had to get all my facts together. I have to see why we have so many earthquakes in different places."
-- Matt Barrows