When the knee first swelled up, James Starks feared this might finally being the tipping point.
The Green Bay Packers third-year running back already dodged one bullet this season after being sidelined for two months with a turf toe injury. Could his 2012 campaign really endure another one?
After being sidelined for the past three weeks with a knee bruise, however, both Starks and Packers coach McCarthy confirmed Thursday they are optimistic about the 6-foot-2 running back's chances of returning in time for the playoffs.
That’s a better prognosis than the one Starks and the team anticipated after the injury occurred following a hit he took from Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson in the fourth quarter of the Packers’ 23-14 win over Minnesota three weeks ago.
Starks finished the game and initially felt fine before the swelling began to set in, eventually leading to the X-ray and diagnosis.
“Definitely,” said McCarthy when asked Thursday if he expects Starks back this season. “That’s what the medical staff is telling me, Starks’ situation is to hopefully get him back for the playoffs. That was a decision that was made a few weeks ago.”
Starks entered the 2012 season as the incumbent starter before sustaining the turf toe injury in the team’s first preseason game against San Diego in August and missing the first five games of the regular season because of it.
The Packers’ run game has remained fluid throughout the season with three backs currently on injured reserve – Cedric Benson (foot), Brandon Saine (knee) and Johnny White (concussion).
Current starter Alex Green missed his second day of practice Thursday with a concussion. The other two backs on the active roster – veteran Ryan Grant and first-year DuJuan Harris – spent most of the season unsigned.
“I figured it would go down the next day and we’d be good,” said Starks, who has 71 carries for 255 yards and one touchdown. “We looked at it a little more, took a X-rays and I had a little bit of bad bone bruising and stuff like that, so just take a little time to get back to myself and go out there and be comfortable.”
The setbacks are nothing new for Starks, who's had each of his three NFL seasons be impacted by some form of injury.
Along with the toe and knee ailments this season, Starks started his rookie season on the physically unable to perform list with a torn hamstring before fighting persistent ankle issues in the second half of last season.
Starks said he’s feeling better today and ahead of schedule in his rehab. Meanwhile, he’s watching film to stay educated on the direction of the offense and began lifting weights in an effort to strengthen the knee.
“Things happen,” Starks said. “I just have to get better and try to prevent those injuries from happening, be smart. Understand how valuable your body is to you. Just have to be smart in certain situations. Some things you can’t control, so I just have to get better.”