Last year's leading rusher RB James Starks vows to work to regain a role in the Packers' offense.
By PAUL IMIGFS Wisconsin
GREEN BAY, Wis. --James Starks is starting to cut and sprint like a running back who's ready to be handed the ball on game day. He's recovered from the turf toe issue that kept him out nearly two months and is no longer even listed on the
Packers injury report. And yet, it's possible that Starks may once again not even be active for Sunday's game against the Colts.
Starks, who entered training camp as Green Bay's No. 1 running back, isn't sure what his role on the team is anymore other than "to get better as a player." But with veteran running back Cedric Benson getting nearly every carry this season, there may not be any opportunities left for Starks, who led the team with 578 rushing yards a year ago.
"Cedric is a great back, he's playing well, but at the same time, we're making the whole running back group better," Starks said on Friday. "There's competition, (and) competition makes teams better. I've got all the confidence (in Benson) and wish nothing but the best for him."
The Packers signed Benson, a 1,000-yard rusher with the Bengals in each of the past three seasons, just a few days after Starks suffered his injury in the Aug. 9 preseason opener. Second-year running back Alex Green, fullback John Kuhn and even wide receiver Randall Cobb have spent time in Green Bay's backfield this season, but Benson has carried the ball on 64 of the team's 73 running plays.
"Sometimes you get frustrated, but everybody gets frustrated at times," Starks said. "But it's nothing that's too overwhelming. Things happen for a reason. I'm going to take this as a positive (and) get better from it."
Heading into Week 4, Starks was listed as probable to play against the New Orleans Saints after being a full participant in practice every day that week. Despite that, coach Mike McCarthy chose to put Starks on the game-day inactive list.
Now that Starks is fully cleared, he still may not be one of the 46 players to be active this Sunday in Indianapolis.
"I really don't want to get into who's up and who's not," McCarthy said. "But James is getting close. I thought he practiced well this week."
Starks has never battled a turf toe injury before, and it was worse than he expected.
"It's something tough to deal with – pain and this and that," Starks said. "I don't think anybody ever is 100 percent in the NFL – guys play hurt all the time. It's something that you have to do. But I'm fine. I've been stepped on (on the injured right foot).
"So, right now, my job is to get my endurance back, start getting my burst, my cuts, my reads better, and things will take care of themselves."
Packers running back coach Alex Van Pelt has been working closely with Starks in recent weeks to try to get him ready if called upon.
"I talked to him this week about pushing harder in practice to see how the toe feels," Van Pelt said. "He says it feels good right now, so we'll see how it goes next week. Hopefully he's closer. (But) Cedric is going to get the load (of carries).
"It's obviously frustrating (for Starks). Nobody likes getting hurt. It's a tough business. If you're not in there, someone else is and they're getting ready to go. So he has to fight his way back on to the field and fight his way back to getting carries, which he's done a good job of."
As Starks continues to work his way back, wide receiver Greg Jennings is officially out of Sunday's game with a groin injury. McCarthy made that determination Thursday, a day earlier than players typically are ruled out for an upcoming game.
Packers starting defensive lineman Ryan Pickett is probable with shoulder and knee injuries, safety M.D. Jennings is probable with a neck injury, cornerback Davon House is questionable with a shoulder injury and safety Sean Richardson remains out with a hamstring injury. Starting left guard T.J. Lang missed Thursday's practice due to personal reasons but returned Friday and will play Sunday.
The Colts' injury situation is in much worse shape, with cornerback Vontae Davis (ankle) and linebacker Pat Angerer (foot) both out against Green Bay. Pass-rushing linebacker Dwight Freeney (ankle) is questionable, as is rookie tight end Coby Fleener (head). Linebacker Robert Mathis (ankle) is probable.