Starks shows why Packers kept him around

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Maybe it should not have been a big surprise that James Starks was the one who snapped the Green Bay Packers’ streak of 44 consecutive games without a 100-yard running back.

After all, Starks was coming off perhaps the best training camp of his career.

And the healthiest.

The oft-injured, fourth-year running back missed only one practice this summer, and it was because of an illness.

Despite a fumble in the second preseason game at St. Louis -- one that temporarily dropped Starks to the bottom of the depth chart -- the Packers made Starks their No. 2 running back to open the season after DuJuan Harris was lost to a season-ending knee injury in the preseason.

Still, Starks was not the most likely candidate to break the longest active streak without a 100-yard running back in the NFL.

No, that was supposed to be rookie Eddie Lacy's job.

But when Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather's apparent helmet-to-helmet hit forced Lacy to leave with a concussion in the first quarter of Sunday’s game, Starks rewarded the Packers with a career-high 132 yards on 20 carries in Sunday’s 38-20 victory at Lambeau Field.

It was the first 100-yard game by a Packers’ running game since Brandon Jackson’s 115-yard day against the Redskins on Oct. 10, 2010.

“I just tried to come out and perform how I knew I could, be available when the time came and whatever they asked me to do I tried to do,” Starks said. “That was my goal coming into camp, and I’m still here.”

That doesn’t mean it was an easy path for Starks, who may not have made the team had Harris remained healthy.

“You can’t forget about James Starks,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “James has been a good football player for us around here, and this has been a real challenge for him with Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin coming in. He’s just been a pro. I think he’s had clearly his best training camp, so this is really no surprise.”

Starks was actually the last Packers running back to rush for 100 yards but because his 123-yard performance against the Philadelphia Eagles on Jan. 9, 2011 came in an NFC wild-card playoff game, it didn’t count in the regular-season streak, which was the longest such streak since the Cincinnati Bengals went 67 straight from 1992-97.

Throughout the streak, there were times when it was reasonable to question how committed to the run McCarthy was.

“If I didn’t do a very good job the last 40-plus games illustrating that I really didn’t care about it, then I apologize,” McCarthy said.

Starks’ role going forward likely will depend on Lacy’s condition. McCarthy had no update about the severity of Lacy’s condition after the game.

Starks might have had more rushing yardage had the Packers also not lost fullback John Kuhn to a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter, which caused McCarthy to go away from the run on the final drive.