Orlando Franklin aims to be NFL's best right tackle

How sure were the Denver Broncos they had victory in the bag last January in their AFC divisional playoff game against Baltimore?

“I was taking the tape off my hands. I thought the game was over,” Broncos right tackle Orlando Franklin said in an interview earlier this month in Toronto, where he was raised and where he resides in the off-season.

The Broncos led the Ravens 35-28 with 41 seconds left when Baltiimore’s Joe Flacco launched his famous 70-yard touchdown bomb to Jacoby Jones. That sent the game to overtime, and where the Ravens eventually won, 38-35.

“We lost to the team that eventually won the Super Bowl,” said Franklin, whose Broncos hit the field on Thursday as training camps across the NFL all open by next Friday. “That loss definitely humbled us, but definitely motivated us too.

“We had won some ridiculous amount of games in a row (11). There’s a reason they say the game’s never over until the last second ticks off. We had numerous opportunities to put that game away. As a team we didn’t take care of business. We were that close, but also that far. I think it motivated a lot of us this past off-season.”

For his third year in the league, the 6-foot-7, 330-pound Franklin is setting an individual goal as high as the Broncos’ team goal. Put simply, it’s to be the best.

One of two Toronto-raised offensive linemen on the Broncos -- second-year backup centre Philip Blake is the other -- the 26-year-old Franklin discussed these subjects and others during one of his many off-season charitable efforts in Toronto, a day of bowling for more than 100 disadvantaged local youths:
What’s the mood of the Broncos coming out of spring practices?

“We’re all eager and excited to get back out there. We know what we have. In my rookie year I don’t think we had an offensive identity. Last year we weren’t quite certain yet of our identity either, because Peyton (Manning) was coming off that season when he didn’t play, right? But now I think going into this season, we definitely have an identity and we definitely know what we’re capable of doing, as long as we take care of business.”

How has new wide receiver Wes Welker fit into the locker room and into the offence with Manning and the other wideouts?

“I feel like they have a good amount of chemistry together already. I mean, he plays around a lot too. He hangs out. He came in Day 1 and it wasn’t like he was hesitant to talk to us, or anything like that. He stepped right in like he’s been on the team the last five years.”

Can you give me an example of Manning’s competitiveness?:
“If a normal player gets beat in practice, it’s like, ‘OK, dang, I got beat in practice.’ But with Peyton, you can see that he really gets down on himself if he messes up a play. He holds himself to a higher level in every aspect. He’s big on routine, too. It’s not like he’s going to show up one week at 5:30 a.m. to go watch film just because we’re playing New England that week. No, he’s going to do that every week, for the whole season. He’s going to do that every week during the off-season too.”

Does that in turn motivate you?
“Yeah, definitely. If a guy like that who has accomplished so much in his life can continue to work like that, then why not? Who am I? I’m just a third-year player -- a second-round draft pick. Who am I not to wake up early in the morning too? Who am I not to watch extra film, if a guy like Peyton Manning is doing that stuff?”

How can the team reach the Super Bowl this year?
“Just for each individual to be accountable to each other. There are 11 guys out there at once on the field. If I can be accountable to all 10 other guys out there, and vice versa, I think we’ll be a great team, and it’ll be no contest as to who’s the best team in this league.”

What’s your individual goal for 2013?
“Last year I gave up three sacks. This year I want to give up zero sacks. I want to be in the best condition of my life and be the best right tackle in the league. I think arguably, between me and (San Francisco’s) Anthony Davis, we’re the best two right tackles in the NFL right now. But everybody can think highly of themselves. I still have to go out there this year and do it.”

On fellow Torontonian Philip Blake:
“I had no idea who Philip Blake was, to be honest with you. He wore my number (74) when he was at Baylor. But I made sure when the Broncos drafted him, I was like, ‘Buddy, don’t think you’re going to come in here and get 74.’ I made sure I tweeted him that. Philip, though, he’s a great guy, man. Last year he made my charity event. This year he couldn’t make it because he and his wife are expecting a little baby girl.”

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