Doghouse? Starks Back in Backfield Picture

Veteran running backs James Starks and Alex Green were practically afterthoughts last week vs. Seattle. That's especially true for Starks, who played just four snaps in the game. Now, everything has changed with DuJuan Harris' season-ending injury.

I half-expected the Green Bay Packers to give James Starks the courtesy of an early release.

The writing was on the wall, after all. Starks, an unsung hero of the Packers' Super Bowl run in 2010, got on the field for the last 2 minutes of last week's game against Seattle. Starks, who was on the roster bubble to begin with due to his never-ending run of bad injury luck and the addition of two hot-shot rookies, dug himself a deep hole with his fumble at St. Louis the week before. Coach Mike McCarthy proceeded to fill in that hole and flatten it with a steamroller. After getting the opening series of the preseason and carrying the ball 12 times in that game against Arizona, Starks was on the field for all of four plays against the Seahawks.

So, it was worth wondering if Starks would be released before the first practice of the week on Sunday, like the Packers did with Graham Harrell.

Better yet, would Starks rather be released than have to slog through the final week of training camp?

Oh, how things change.

On Tuesday, after Starks got the football equivalent of scraps on the practice field for the third consecutive day, a sullen McCarthy announced that DuJuan Harris would be headed to injured reserve. And — voila! — McCarthy dug open that hole, dusted off Starks and gave him a pat on the back.

Doghouse? What doghouse?

"I think you have to be excited about James Starks' camp," McCarthy said on Tuesday. "He's practiced every single day, which is something that was important for him to do. His availability has been the highest of his career. He runs very hard. He's contributed a little more on special teams, which he hasn't done in the past. So, there's definitely steps that James made throughout training camp."

Not quite to Starks' extreme, but it was a similar story for Alex Green. Green entered training camp as the No. 1 running back but was stripped of the ball by Johnny Jolly the night before the Family Night Scrimmage. That put him behind Starks on the pecking order, and the downward slide continued. After playing just eight snaps against Seattle, Green's spot on the roster seemed in jeopardy, as well.

Not anymore.

For Starks, no one ever has questioned whether he could run the football. He runs with patience to find an opening and has the power to finish his runs. His career average of 4.0 yards per carry, a pretty heady number considering the Packers' inability to run the ball the past few years, should drive home that point. Before the fumble, he was having his best training camp.

"I feel stronger," Starks said recently. "Even banging and hitting, I feel like my balance is a lot better (with) absorbing blows. A lot of guys give shots and they might think that they have a tackle, but a lot of the hits that I take, I feel like I'm bouncing off of them pretty good and have the balance to keep going up the field and make guys miss."

Injuries, of course, have been the bugaboo. Considering his chiseled body, it's not as if he's been injured because he eats too many s'mores. Now, with Harris' injury, Starks has gone from afterthought to a potential main character with Eddie Lacy.

"Here's a guy that helped carry the team to the Super Bowl in that playoff run,' running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said on Monday. "He's definitely able to do it. We just have to get him back in the mix a little bit."

For Green, no one really knows if he can run the football. A third-round pick in 2011, his rookie season was ruined by a torn ACL and he played at less than full strength in 2012, when he led the team in rushing but averaged a woeful 3.4 yards per carry. With the speed and explosiveness which he displayed on his 31-yard run against Seattle, there's plenty to like, but he doesn't have Starks' running instincts.

Before Harris went down, Starks and Green were battling for one spot. Or, maybe there was no spot to battle for. Certainly, there was no way they'd keep both. Now, with the desire to minimize the workload for Lacy, the ho-hum training camp of fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin, Starks' injury history and Green a possibility to be the No. 1 kickoff returner, odds are pretty good that Starks and Green will be showing up for duty when the Packers being their preparations for San Francisco on Monday.

"I know what I'm capable of, I know what I can do and things happen," Starks said recently. "Things happen for a reason and only God knows those reasons. My head is still high, I'm still focused. I've got a goal. I'm going to make sure this year that I'm healthy and that I show everybody what I really can do."

Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.

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

Packer Report Top Stories