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Most Important Packers of 2012 -- #8: James Starks and Alex Green, RB

Jul 17, 2012 -- 10:05pm
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GREEN BAY – Ryan Grant ain’t walkin’ through that door – apparently.

And so, the Green Bay Packers evidently have decided to cast their lot with James Starks and Alex Green as their top running backs, despite Starks’ uncertain durability and Green coming off a major knee injury.

It may not matter which player stays healthy -- just that one does.

Grant, who had back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons in 2008 and 2009 before a season-ending ankle injury in the 2010 opener, remains on the free-agent market after carrying 134 times for 559 yards (4.2-yard average) and two touchdowns last season, missing only one game – with a bruised kidney. Starks, meanwhile, played in 13 games – although he was unable to finish three of those – because of knee and ankle injuries suffered on Nov. 20 against Tampa Bay. He finished with 133 carries for 578 yards (4.3-yard average) and one touchdown.

And Green? He blew out the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Oct. 23 at Minnesota, just when the coaching staff was set to expand his role. He missed all of the organized team activity practices and the mandatory minicamp and may not be ready for the first day of training camp July 26, either.

Nevertheless, the Packers have not contacted Grant, who turns 30 on Dec. 9, and don’t appear the least bit concerned about Starks’ injury history or Green’s rehabilitation. (Free-agent running back Cedric Benson did tell SiriusXM NFL Radio’s Adam Schein that the Packers have “checked in” with him several times this offseason, although there are no indications that the team will sign him.)

That means general manager Ted Thompson believes Starks and Green – or both – will stay healthy enough to carry the running game, which remains important to the Packers’ offense despite quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ productivity and the bevy of pass-catching talent on the roster. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said during the NFL Meetings that he intends to revamp the running game this season, although he hasn’t said just what those plans are.

Whatever they are, they revolve around Starks and Green – and both staying healthy.

"James [is a] very talented young man," McCarthy said. "The most important statistic for him is going to be availability. It has nothing to do with his skill set. He's getting better and better and better. … He's a young, raw guy that needs to play. If he can stay healthy, I think he'll make a significant jump as a player."

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