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Starks suffers knee injury; Grant ready

Nov 20, 2011 -- 8:51pm

GREEN BAY – Ryan Grant doesn’t know how severe fellow running back James Starks’ sprained right knee is, but the Green Bay Packers veteran halfback is ready if Starks’ injury keeps him out of Thursday’s Thanksgiving Day game in Detroit – or longer.

Starks went down with 3 minutes 1 second left in the Packers’ 35-26 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and coach Mike McCarthy said he’ll undergo further testing Monday.

Starks was injured on his 11th carry of the game, when he was bent over backwards in a pileup with his legs pinned beneath a defender. He had to be helped off the field by the medical staff, unable to put much weight on his right leg.

Starks, who ran 11 times for 38 yards and caught six passes for 53 yards, had been getting the lion’s share of the snaps over Grant, who returned this season after suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 1 of the Packers’ Super Bowl XLV championship season in 2010. Through last Monday night’s victory over Minnesota, Starks had played 355 snaps to grant’s 163, according to ProFootballFocus.com.

“I was talking to him on the sideline. I know they’ll evaluate tomorrow, but he looked in good spirits,” Grant said. “Initially, he was in pain, but I think (from) the initial shock. What he was told by the doctor put him in good spirits. He said it’s a little sore right now. Whatever happens, we’ll be OK. But I don’t know if it’s that serious. We’ll roll with what we’ve got.”

What they’ve got right now is Grant, who had back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons in 2008 and 2009; jack-of-all-trades fullback John Kuhn, who scored his fifth touchdown of the year Sunday; and undrafted rookie free agent Brandon Saine, who was promoted from the practice squad when rookie third-round pick Alex Green suffered a season-ending knee injury Oct. 23 at Minnesota.

“I thought James was having a nice day with his opportunities. I would have like to have given him some more opportunities,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “James is having a good year and I thought he was playing well up to the injury.”

Starks wasn’t alone in the training room, however. Wide receiver Greg Jennings, who caught a season-low two passes for 6 yards, suffered a bruised shin when he was hit low on a catch just before halftime. He stayed down momentarily and left the field gingerly, but he was back in the game to start the third quarter. However, he did not play a single snap in the final nine minutes of the game.

“I think Greg’s going to be fine. I think he had a shin bruise or something that they were looking at,” McCarthy said. “He was going in and out (of the game). I haven’t got a full report on Greg. I’m sure the training staff is looking at him as we speak and I’ll have more information for you tomorrow.”

In addition, linebacker Clay Matthews suffered a mild stinger early in the game but returned, as did tight end Jermichael Finley, who stayed on the turf briefly after hyperextending his elbow on the first play of the second quarter.

“It just really scared me more than anything,” Finley said.

Meanwhile, if Grant does have to shoulder the load in the coming weeks, his limited work (73 carries, 267 yards) should mean fresh late-season legs.

“This is the best I’ve felt physically going into this time of the year,” Grant said. “It might be a little difficult just to get in a groove (with limited carries), but you try to do what you can with your opportunities.”

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