It has taken three years for the Green Bay Packers to get a stat line out of James Starks that resembles one full NFL season.
Since the Packers selected Starks in the sixth round in 2010, the 6-foot-2 running back hasn’t been able to stay healthy through an assortment of hamstring, shoulder, ankle, knee and toe injuries.
In those three seasons, he’s played in 22 of a possible 48 regular-season games with 233 carries for 934 yards and two touchdowns.
Starks will turn 27 next month after playing six games in 2012 despite entering the season as the preferred starter until sustaining a turf toe injury that sidelined him for two months.
Starks played 125 offensive snaps upon his return, including a 25-carry performance against Detroit on Dec. 18, but fell victim to a knee bruise against Minnesota on Dec. 2 and didn’t play again.
So what do the Packers have in Starks?
“I think he can be a guy in a stable of backs that can be a great change-of-pace back, come in there and split carries with whoever is in the room,” Packers running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said. “The health is obviously a concern.”
When healthy, Starks’ talent is hard to miss. He had 71 carries for 255 yards this season (3.6 yards per carry), but showcased a hard, one-cut running style the coaches don’t want to change.
In the days after the Packers’ 45-31 loss to San Francisco in the NFC divisional playoffs, Van Pelt sat down with Starks and reiterated to him to not get discouraged.
“It is frustrating, but it makes you better at the same time,” Starks said earlier this month. “Basically going through this all the time you learn how much you love football and what you need to do better. It makes you stronger, you learn from every mistake. I had a lot of mistakes, a lot of little mishaps and stuff like that. Each year I get better.”
After three injury-riddled seasons, Van Pelt expects Starks’ luck to change.
“It’s so frustrating for him,” Van Pelt said. “He has a fate thing. It’s bad luck. I think if he keeps working hard, persisting and puts the work in during the offseason, it has to turn for him at some point. He did some impressive things when he was in there.
“We felt highly enough of him to have him be the guy in there, so it’s just a matter of him staying healthy and catching a break.”
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