The Green Bay Packers have yet to officially rule rookie running back Eddie Lacy out for this Sunday’s upcoming game against the Cincinnati Bengals as he recovers from a concussion, but head coach Mike McCarthy did say that James Starks will get the start regardless of Lacy’s status.
“James Starks is definitely someone I look at as a starter and the ability to run as many times in a football game as needed,” said McCathy. “James will get the start and the opportunity this week.”
Lacy was hit in a helmet-to-helmet collision with Washington safety Brandon Merriweather this past Sunday, for which he was fined $42,000, according to Jason LaCanfora of CBS Sports.
Lacy did not practice on Wednesday as the Packers began their first day of on-field preparations for the Bengals, but he was reportedly present at practice and is making progress.
“He’s in the meetings, and that’s always a positive sign,” said McCarthy. “He has a couple tests in front of him he needs to pass before he can practice.”
All NFL players suffering a concussion must undergo a multi-tiered protocol before being allowed to return to action.
With the Packers one game away from a Week 4 bye, it stands to reason that they might err on the side of caution with Lacy and give him an extra week on the sidelines, but that is merely guesswork at this point.
The Packers will give their official game-time status projections on Friday after practice, but there’s no guarantee that the Packers will even know by then whether Lacy will be able to play or not with kickoff still approximately 48 hours away.
Combined with a hamstring injury to fullback John Kuhn, however, the Packers are thin in the offensive backfield, at least for the time being. Kuhn did not practice on Wednesday either.
Starks and rookie Johnathan Franklin were the only true running backs available at practice on Wednesday, and Franklin has yet to have his first NFL carry.
Trough the team’s first two games, Franklin has played exclusively on special teams for a total of nine plays. But that could be changing in the near future if you’re to believe McCarthy.
“Johnathan’s doing a lot of good things,” said McCarthy. “At practice today, he had a big-time catch down in the red (zone). He’ll probably get some opportunities this week. Frankly, in hindsight, I should have got him in the game on Sunday, but James was hot, and I just wanted to ride him and give him as many opportunities as possible.”
When asked whether the team was considering picking up a running back to get the team through the current rough patch, McCarthy said on Monday that the team was putting together a game plan based upon the players that are on the roster.
If general manager Ted Thompson and the Packers were considering adding a running back, they probably would have done so by now. And perhaps it’s a case where they’re just trying to get through the bye week, which would allow extra time Lacy and Kuhn to get healthy.
Randall Cobb is a player who’s lined up at running back on occasion for the Packers in the past and had success, although he’s certainly not a player the Packers want taking any more than a handful of snaps.
If Kuhn weren’t available for duty, the Packers would have to likely get by with the tight ends splitting time as an H-back, which they’ve all done from time to time as well.
The Packers have had a mixed bag of success in running the football through the first two weeks of the season, gaining only 63 yards (3.3 ypc) against San Francisco in Week 1, while improving to 139 yards (5.8 ypc) in Week 2 versus Washington.
On Sunday, the Packers face a team that ranks seventh in the NFL in both total defense (300.5 yards per game) and rushing defense (62.5 yards per game), led by All-Pro defensive lineman Geno Atkins and a good surrounding cast.
Starks and whoever he’s joined by figures to have their work cut out for them.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” and editor of Cheesehead TV’s “Pro Football Draft Preview.” To contact Brian, email email@example.com.