The Green Bay Packers can buy some time on making a decision on rookie running back James Starks by continuing to keep him on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list until the start of the regular season.
By beginning the regular season on the PUP list, Starks would be inactive for the first six weeks of the season and not count toward the 53-man roster. After six weeks, the Packers must then make a decision whether to activate Starks or place him on season-ending injured reserve.
However, Starks must remain on the PUP list from now until the regular season. Once a player is taken off the PUP list, even if the regular season hasn't begun, he is no longer eligible to be put back on the list.
The sixth-round draft choice was placed on the PUP list with a hamstring injury shortly before training camp began. He originally pulled his hamstring back during OTAs in May and missed a chunk of offseason practices. He then reportedly tweaked his hamstring during a conditioning test immediately before training camp back in late July.
Head coach Mike McCarthy said on Aug. 2 that the injury was worse than initially thought. This afternoon he was asked if Starks was making any progress.
"I hope so," said McCarthy. "He’s kind of at a standstill. But it would be nice to see him out there."
With fellow running backs Ryan Grant and Kregg Lumpkin having missed Monday's practice due to injury, the Packers could use some depth at the position, but it wouldn't behoove them to rush back Starks.
Hamstrings can take a long time to fully recover, and by beginning the regular season on the PUP list, the Packers–in effect–would have more than two months from now to determine his fate for the 2010 season.
No one knows what shape the Packers will be in by Week 7 of the season, but injuries have a way of taking place and it's possible that Starks could make a seamless transition to the 53-man roster at that time.
Undrafted rookie running back Quinn Porter is making a run at a roster spot, and the Packers could also use those six extra weeks to make a more definitive decision on his future. Lumpkin might have to be cut as a sacrifice, but that is a chance the Packers might be willing to take.
If Porter fares well after six weeks, the Packers can keep him on the roster. The Packers would then seem to be in good shape at running back in terms of depth even if Starks isn't ready to return to action.
If Porter does well and Starks is healthy after six weeks, then the Packers have a decision on their hands. They could elect to keep four running backs, which isn't unheard of. Or they could cut Starks and then hope to place him on the practice squad.
Placing Starks on injured reserve before the start of the regular season is also an option if he definitely isn't ready to return. By doing so, the Packers will have delayed a decision on his future for another year.
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