Starks Feeling Lucky, Optimistic

Running back James Starks escaped a major injury against Tampa Bay in part because he's bowlegged. Plus, injury reports and other nuggets from Tuesday.

Greg Jennings definitely will be ready to go for the Green Bay Packers' Thanksgiving showdown at the Detroit Lions. Coach Mike McCarthy, however, isn't as sure about the availability of running back James Starks.

Starks did the individual and group work and, as a positive sign, took a few reps during the 11-on-11 part of Tuesday's practice.

"Primary objective (was) getting him out there so he could see what you were practicing," McCarthy said. "James Starks was out there getting ready to play in the game. It will be a medical decision if plays (or) if he doesn't play. I just talked to him coming off the field, and he has 48 hours to get himself ready."

Starks said he was "blessed" that he emerged from a fourth-quarter pile-up against the Bucs without a serious knee injury. He hasn't seen a replay of the play and doesn't intend to, either. Interestingly, Dr. Pat McKenzie told Starks that being slightly bowlegged might have saved him from sustaining ligament damage that could have ended his season.

"Because my legs are turned in this way, and they go that way, so if I was straight-legged and my knee (was hit), it probably would have torn," Starks said.

Starks said he didn't lose and strength or stability in the knee, and the swelling has been diminishing.

"I was going through a little bit of pain, but I can deal with pain," Starks said. "Running backs play with a lot of pain, so I can get through it. I just have to start tolerating it a little better. I feel good, though. I feel better."

Packers injury report

Out: LT Chad Clifton (hamstring). Limited: LB Desmond Bishop (calf); WR Greg Jennings (knee); LB Clay Matthews (ankle); LT Marshall Newhouse (knee); G Josh Sitton (knee); RB James Starks (knee/ankle). Full: LB Frank Zombo (hamstring).

Noticeably absent from the injury report was defensive end Mike Neal. Neal missed the first nine games of the season after sustaining a knee injury during training camp. Neal played about 15 snaps on Sunday against Tampa Bay.

"It's really going to drive off how he feels," McCarthy said. "Everything's been positive as far as how he's come out of the game, how he felt going into practice today. (The workload) will increase as Mike feels it. He played what, 15, 17 snaps whether you go official or unofficial, against the Bucs. Hopefully, we can increase that this week."

Lions injury report

Did not participate: RB Jahvid Best (concussion); P Ryan Donahue (quad); DE Lawrence Jackson (quad); WR Calvin Johnson (ankle); DT Corey Williams (calf). Limited: WR Rashied Davis (hamstring); S Chris Harris (ankle); LB DeAndre Levy (elbow); S Amari Spievey (toe); WR Maurice Stovall (shoulder); DE Willie Young (ankle). Full: RB Maurice Morris (ankle); QB Matthew Stafford (finger).

The explosive Best sustained his concussion on Oct. 16 against San Francisco. He hasn't played since and won't play on Thursday. In his place, retread Kevin Smith has been a savior. Smith, a third-round pick by Detroit in 2008 who wasn't given a restricted free agent tender this past offseason, was re-signed a couple weeks ago. He was named the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week on Tuesday after rushing for 140 yards and adding 61 receiving yards against Carolina.

"A lot of guys get faced with a lot of things," Lions coach Jim Schwartz said. "You know, being at the end of their careers or having injuries or being on the bubble, not being good enough or anything else. I think that, you know, it just shows you that Kevin is very appreciative of what he has in life and how he got here and things like that. I don't think there's any room for bitterness, or anything else — (it) doesn't do a whole lot of good."

Four-point stance

-- With the Lions' resurgence, Ford Field is one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL. "Crowd noise is something you prepare for all year," McCarthy said. "We're not just going to prepare for crowd noise when we go to Minnesota or at Detroit or some of the louder stadiums. In a normal offseason, we'd do it in the OTAs, we'd do it throughout training camp. We have some structure in offense, things we emphasize in our operation that prepare ourselves for these types of games. It's definitely a challenge. It's going to be loud Thursday, the stadium is a great design for crowd noise. But this is something we do spend a lot of time on."

-- Quarterback Aaron Rodgers was asked about the prospects of a 16-0 regular season: "We're not really thinking about that. We're just focused on the next game and we realize this game has enough significance and importance to our season being that it's an opportunity to really separate ourselves in the division and hopeful that we'll come out and play the kind of game we want to play."

-- In his conference call with Packers beat reporters, Suh, the Lions' stud defensive tackle, was asked about squaring off against the Packers' standout right guard, Josh Sitton: "I think over the last year, my battles with Sitton have been pretty productive. He's a great player, but at the same time, I like going against great players and it gives me a challenge and it gives me something to really hone into. He's a great player that I enjoy going against because of his talent, his strength, his abilities, being able to have quick feet and so forth. It's always a fun time to go against him."

-- The Packers are 10-0 and the Lions 7-3, giving them a combined record of 17-3. That makes this matchup the second-best Thanksgiving game in NFL history (Super Bowl era). In 1995, the Chiefs were 10-1 and the Cowboys 9-2.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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