Notebook: Knee injury surprised Starks

Tom Silverstein
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
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Packers running back James Starks stiff arms New York Giants outside linebacker J.T. Thomas in Green Bay's 23-16 win Oct. 9 at Lambeau Field.

GREEN BAY – Green Bay Packers running back James Starks said he wasn’t having any problem with his left knee before or during the New York Giants game.

“It wasn't bothering me, even after the game,” Starks said. “I came to practice, ran, nothing was wrong and then woke up on my day off (and) kind of seen swelling. Told the trainers and stuff as soon as I knew, then we just got it checked out.

“It was kind of like it was messed up so I got it taken care of.”

Starks had surgery soon after and has been on the road to recovery. He took part in some individual drills last week and this week upped his work load to team drills. He said things went well, but he doesn’t know if he’ll play Sunday at Tennessee.

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“I take it like day-by-day, you know what I'm saying?” he said. “I go out there and push. I know, being at the running back position, you've got a lot of things coming at you at once. You've got to be able to perform and help the team.

“Right now, I feel like I can do that.”

Starks was off to a slow start when he got hurt. He had carried 24 times for 42 yards and hadn’t been used much more than in spot duty behind Eddie Lacy.

When he comes back, he’s expected to share time with Ty Montgomery.

Starks said he didn’t plan on needing much time to get back in the flow of things or regain confidence in his knee.

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“I mean, I've been through injuries before with my knee,” Starks said. “Things happen, I always bounce back and I plan on doing the same, just work hard, continue working hard, getting stronger, being more durable.

“I take it personal and I'm going to try to do the best I can.”

Missing in action: When asked what the Packers have been missing in pass rush with Clay Matthews sidelined with a hamstring pull, associate head coach/linebackers Winston Moss broadened the analysis.

“I think the defense misses Clay Matthews,” Moss said. “I think that Clay is a playmaker, Clay is disrupting in the run and the pass and we’re looking forward to when he gets back. He’s just another part of the puzzle that helps this defense wins and play very well.”

Moss said the coaches were still confident they could produce a pass rush without him. However, in the last two games, both of which he didn’t play, the Packers managed four sacks.

Up the ladder: As injuries piled up at the cornerback position, second-year player LaDarius Gunter rose from fourth to first on the Packers’ depth chart.

“He’s been thrust into a role where not only have we used him as the one, we’ve matched him,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt Jr. said. “And so when you get given those types of opportunities, those are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, and you want to be able to perform and show that you’re deserving of the role.”

The boost in playing time has come with its ups and downs. Gunter played a tremendous game against Odell Beckham Jr. of the Giants but gave up touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts.

“I think he’s shown at times that hey, he can be that guy,” Whitt said. “But at the same time, there’s some growing pains.”

 Injury report: The Packers received more positive news on the injury front with the return of cornerback Damarious Randall, who was in pads for the first time since undergoing groin surgery.

Randall took part in ball drills that involved backpedaling, flipping his hips, some light cutting and catching passes. He remains a long shot to play this weekend but could return sooner than anticipated.

Outside linebacker Matthews (hamstring) and center JC Tretter (knee) were the only players who did not practice.

Right guard T.J. Lang (hip) returned to the field in a limited role. Practice squad nose tackle Brian Price dropped out with what looked like a foot or ankle injury.

For the Titans, running back DeMarco Murray (foot) practiced on a limited basis after sitting out Wednesday’s session.

Cashing out: Wide receiver Jared Abbrederis (thigh contusion) received an injury settlement of $123,529 after being waived injured on Oct. 27. It is the equivalent of four weeks pay based on his $525,000 base salary, the time the Packers and his agent agreed it would take for the injury to heal.

Safety Chris Banjo (hamstring) received $119,118 for his injury settlement, the equivalent of three weeks of his $675,000 pay.

Michael Cohen and Bob McGinn of the Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.

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