Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC North [Print without images]

Tuesday, August 28, 2012
ChatWrap: Future of James Starks


Our SportsNation chat was stacked with questions about the NFL's looming final cutdown day and the potential for last-minute roster shuffling over the Labor Day weekend. The juiciest suggestion came about 20 minutes in:

Bob (Oshkosh)

You heard it here first...the Packers will release James Starks Friday

Kevin Seifert (2:21 PM)

A lot of people are asking about that. There is definitely something weird going on. [Mike] McCarthy said today that he hasn't made much progress in that turf toe injury. Quite a turn of events. Would they release him? It would be the third consecutive year he's had some kind of injury that cost him games.

Starks entered training camp as the Packers' unquestioned No. 1 running back, but he quickly fell off the radar after suffering the injury Aug. 9. The Packers signed veteran Cedric Benson a few days later, although it's still not clear whether they lost patience with Starks' injury history or if they simply wanted a veteran fallback if Starks' recovery extended into the regular season.

The latter scenario seemed likely Tuesday after McCarthy told reporters: "James Starks, just talking to the medical staff, is coming along slow. So we’ll just continue to treat him. He hasn't made a whole of progress here of late."

It would be a quick fall for a player the Packers seemed so enthused about entering camp. To be clear, I don't know that the Packers have given up on him. Starks came out of nowhere in 2010 to help them win the Super Bowl, and for that reason there is reason to believe he could return at some point this season and provide a boost.

When deciding whether to dedicate a roster spot to Starks, the Packers will have to weigh that hope with a big-picture look at his injury history. He missed his final season at Buffalo in 2009 because of a shoulder injury and needed more than half of his rookie season to recover from a hamstring injury in 2010. Last season, he managed only 19 carries over the Packers' final seven games because of knee and ankle injuries.

In the end, this story might be different if the Packers were overflowing with running back depth. Behind Benson is second-year player Alex Green, who hardly played as a rookie before tearing his ACL. The Packers also have veteran John Kuhn and second-year player Brandon Saine, who hasn't played this preseason because of a hamstring injury. I don't have any inside information on this one, but I'm not sure the Packers are in position to lose patience so quickly with a once-prized running back.