GREEN BAY – James Starks has to have some of the worst injury luck in Green Bay Packers history.
When Mike McCarthy said on Monday that the medical staff was still evaluating a handful of players – and thus he was unable to deliver a full injury report – apparently one of the players the Packers coach was talking about was the oft-injured running back.
According to an NFL source, Starks was later diagnosed with a knee injury, suffered during Sunday’s 23-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings, and it’s serious enough that he might not play again the rest of the season. The source said the Packers are mulling placing Starks on injured reserve.
“It’s not an ACL,” the source said, adding that the early evaluation was that the injury would not require surgery. But with only four regular-season games left, the Packers likely will want Starks’ roster spot for a healthy player for the stretch run.
Starks carried 15 times for 66 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown – only the Packers’ third rushing touchdown of the season – against the Vikings. With 5 minutes 22 seconds left in the fourth quarter, Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson hit him flush on the right knee and upended him on a run during the Packers’ 11-minute field-goal drive to seal the game.
Starks limped off the field and came out of the game after that, but he returned for the Packers’ final possession and ran three times, for back-to-back-to-back 3-yard gains.
On Monday, McCarthy said to open his press briefing: “In regards to injuries, we’re still working through our injury report. There’s some more information being gathered so we haven’t released, (Trainer) Pepper Burruss has not concluded our injury report for today.”
Later, McCarthy added that the team had “a couple guys that are being evaluated. Nothing of serious nature. We’ll have it for you Wednesday.”
Starks’ agent, Dave Butz, declined comment when reached Tuesday evening.
Starks’ injury history before this season was well-documented: He missed his senior year at the University of Buffalo with a shoulder injury; missed the first half of his rookie season in the NFL with a torn hamstring; and missed much of the second half of last season with nagging knee and ankle problems. But he entered training camp healthy and at the top of the running back depth chart, with his position coach, Alex Van Pelt, talking excitedly about Starks being able to stay healthy for all 16 games.
Instead, he suffered a turf toe injury in the Aug. 9 preseason opener at San Diego, the Packers signed veteran free-agent running back Cedric Benson three days later and Starks was inactive for the season’s first five games. And yet, he kept a positive attitude throughout.
Starks carried five times for 11 yards during the team’s Oct. 14 victory at Houston, then dressed but did not play against St. Louis on Oct. 21 and carried one time for 8 yards against Jacksonville on Oct. 28.
Starks then got an opportunity at extensive playing time and rushed 17 times for 61 yards against Arizona on Nov. 4, then had 25 carries for 74 yards at Detroit on Nov. 18. He had only eight carries for 35 yards against the New York Giants on Nov. 25, but he drew praise from McCarthy for his performance against the Vikings on Sunday.
“I liked what James Starks did. I thought he stepped up,” McCarthy said after the game. “I thought Alex (Green) ran well, I thought John Kuhn played tough like he always does. (But) I thought James was a little cut above today, and that’s why I went with him in the fourth quarter.”
If Starks is done for the year, it leaves Green, Kuhn, Johnny White and practice-squad call-up DuJuan Harris, a first-year player from Troy, on the roster. Harris played in five games last season as a rookie with Jacksonville, rushing nine times for 42 yards.
The Packers lost Benson to a Lisfranc foot sprain on Oct. 7, and despite being placed on IR with the designation to return, Benson will not play again this season after undergoing surgery last week.
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