The Green Bay Packers like James Starks’ potential so much that they’re using a valuable spot on their 53-man roster for a player who hasn’t played in a game since Jan. 3, 2009, and might not be ready any time soon.
One day after the Packers elected to release veteran cornerback Al Harris rather than activate him from the physically unable to perform list, the team activated the rookie running back.
Starks was the Packers’ sixth-round draft pick, a back boasting an intriguing skill-set for their offense. A three-year star at Buffalo, Starks rushed for 3,140 yards (4.5-yard average), caught 127 passes (7.1 average) and scored 37 total touchdowns.
However, Starks missed his entire senior season after his ailing shoulder required surgery in August 2009. As a junior, Starks rushed for 1,333 yards and caught 52 passes.
Because of the long layoff, Starks tumbled into the sixth round even though a couple league insiders told Packer Report in the spring that he had third-round ability.
The injury problem persisted in Green Bay. He participated in only two weeks of organized team activities because of a strained hamstring, and he failed his pre-training camp physical because of the injury.
The Packers could have put Starks on season-ending injured reserve, but that would have barred him from practicing — something he badly needs after missing so much time. They also could have released him and signed him to the practice squad, but a source told Packer Report that the team was worried that he would be signed to another team’s 53-man roster.
So, the Packers kept Starks, and he’ll join Brandon Jackson, John Kuhn and Dimitri Nance at halfback, with Korey Hall and Quinn Johnson at fullback. When Starks will be ready to contribute remains to be seen, considering how much Green Bay uses its running backs in pass protection. Without a training camp and preseason under his belt, would the Packers possibly trust Starks to protect Aaron Rodgers?
To make room, the Packers waived linebacker Robert Francois. They also released safety Michael Greco from the practice squad. The Packers will fill that spot with Francois, who is eligible for the practice squad after playing in just three games this year.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.