|A reported injury to James Starks would further deplete an already decimated Packers backfield. (US Presswire)|
The hits just keep coming for the Packers, and for unlucky and oft-injured RB James Starks. ESPN Milwaukee reported Tuesday night that Starks suffered a previously unannounced knee injury in Sunday’s 23-14 win over the Vikings and could be placed on season-ending injured reserve.
During his Monday press conference, coach Mike McCarthy did not provide an injury report because he said some players were still being evaluated. It seems Starks was one of those players, since his injury was not mentioned after the game Sunday night or the next day.
The original report quoted a league source who said Starks did not tear his anterior cruciate ligament. But with only four games remaining in the regular season, the Packers would probably want to use Starks’ roster spot on a healthy player who can help them, especially with their depleted running back situation.
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Veteran RB Cedric Benson, the starter early in the season who suffered a Lisfranc foot injury in Week 5 and was placed on the new injured reserve/designated to return list, was officially shut down last weekend. He joined second-year RB Brandon Saine, who went on IR with a knee injury after Green Bay’s Week-6 win at Houston.
Starks can’t catch a break with injuries. He suffered a torn hamstring in 2010 and battled ankle problems last year. He also missed the first seven games of this season with turf toe. In five games in 2012, he rushed 71 times for 255 yards (3.6-yard average) and one touchdown.
With Starks potentially finished, the lion’s share of backfield responsibility will likely go back to Alex Green, who wasn’t exactly impressive with his previous opportunities as a lead back. In three midseason starts while both Benson and Starks were injured, Green averaged just 2.4 yards per carry.
On Monday, McCarthy said he was pleased with the play of both Starks and Green against Minnesota. The pair combined for 124 yards on 27 carries (4.6-yard average), and McCarthy indicated that he was planning to go forward with a platoon situation in the backfield.
“As we game plan, we’re going to stay the course the way we’ve gone (with a split backfield), but if you feel one’s going a little better than the other maybe we’ll lean that way,” McCarthy said. “I leaned that way a little bit with James. I thought Alex running the ball did a very good job. He graded out a little better on video than I might have been aware of during the game, but I thought James ran the ball very hard.”
Starks, who apparently suffered the injury on a straight-to-the-knee hit by Vikings CB Josh Robinson in that fourth quarter, limped off the field but was only sidelined temporarily. He returned to rush three times for nine yards on the Packers’ final series.
Earlier in that game, Starks had a 22-yard touchdown run, the Packers’ first rushing score since Week 5 and Starks’ first touchdown since the 2011 season-opener. Now, the Packers have just four running backs on the roster, and two of them weren’t even on the team at the beginning of the year.
Besides Green and John Kuhn, there’s DuJuan Harris, who was promoted to the practice squad just last weekend, and Johnny White, signed earlier in the season off waivers. White missed the game against the Vikings with a concussion and it’s unclear when he’ll be back.
Presumably, McCarthy will make an announcement and have more information on Wednesday.
Follow Packers reporter James Carlton on Twitter @CBSPackers.