GREEN BAY – After ending his seventh season in concussion protocol following a vehicular accident in December, Green Bay Packers running back James Starks was released Tuesday with a non-football injury designation.
Starks struggled in 2016 after signing a two-year, $6 million deal last offseason. He finished with 145 rushing yards in nine games, the fewest since his rookie season in 2010. Starks’ 2.3 yards per carry was the lowest in his career.
An October knee injury forced Starks to have surgery, missing four games. He later missed the final three regular-season games and each of the team’s three playoff games with the concussion. It contributed to a rough season at tailback for the Packers, with Eddie Lacy being placed on injured reserve with ankle surgery after five games.
Starks’ season ended when his sport utility vehicle was hit by a semi tractor-trailer at 4:32 a.m. Dec. 12 at the intersection of Webster Avenue and Radisson Street on Green Bay’s north side, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. The crash happened about 12 hours after the Packers beat the Seattle Seahawks at Lambeau Field.
Starks had $3 million remaining on his contract, which he signed after a career year in 2015 with 601 rushing yards and 43 catches for 392 yards. The Packers might have the option to re-sign him for less money, but Starks turns 31 years old Feb. 25 and doesn’t factor into their long-term plans.
If it is the end of his time in Green Bay, Starks leaves a legacy as a sixth-round pick that exceeded expectations out of the University at Buffalo. The Packers might not make their run to Super Bowl XLV as the NFC’s sixth seed without Starks. As a rookie, Starks had 315 yards and a touchdown in the 2010 playoffs, including 123 yards in the wild-card round at Philadelphia.
Starks never settled into the lead tailback spot, mostly playing a complementary role as Eddie Lacy’s backup the past four seasons. In seven years, Starks has 2,506 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. A dual threat, he added 125 catches for 1,017 yards.
The Packers will need to address their running back situation this offseason. With Starks released, former receiver Ty Montgomery is the only Packers half back under contract next in 2017.
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