The Green Bay Packers will start veteran running back James Starks over rookie Eddie Lacy on Sunday in Southern Ohio against the Cincinnati Bengals, according to Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. Lacy suffered a concussion on his first carry of the Packers 38-20 win over the Washington Redskins last weekend.
McCarthy said Lacy was “doing fine” on Wednesday and he has made progress, and the team hopes his concussion tests will clear him for practice by Thursday. Even if Lacy is cleared to play for Sunday, McCarthy said Starks would be the guy at running back against Cincinnati. “James (Starks) is the definite starter,” McCarthy said. “He has the ability to run as many times as needed.”
Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather, who gave Lacy his concussion on Sunday, was fined by the league for $42K for his illegal helmet-to-helmet hit. Meriweather, who has had his fair share of illegal hits on defenseless players as a member of the New England Patriots and Chicago Bears, surprisingly did not receive a suspension. “What happens in a game, I have no comment on,” McCarthy said. “There is a procedure and opportunity to communicate with the league. That is why we have the system in place.”
In place of Lacy, Starks had his best game in his NFL career, rushing for a career-high 132 yards on 20 carries and scoring one touchdown. “We know what he is capable of,” Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “He has been injured off and on, but we saw Sunday what he is capable of. He is a confidence player; when he knew he would get the bulk of the carries (Sunday), he just had to relax and play. He had his chances, and he made the most of them.”
Running back Johnathan Franklin, one of three Packers’ fourth-round selections in April’s NFL Draft, should see some playing time out of the offensive backfield as Starks’ likely primary backup running back on Sunday. “Johnathan is doing good things,” McCarthy said. “He will get some opportunities this week. I should’ve got him in on Sunday, but James (Starks) was hot. Johnathan Franklin is getting ready to go.”
At UCLA, Franklin graduated as the school’s all-time leading rusher. As a senior, Franklin proved to be one of the more dynamic players in all of college football, totaling over 2,000 yards of total offense and scoring 15 total touchdowns, while helping lead the Bruins to a 9-win season under first-year head coach Jim Mora.
“He (Franklin) is a smart kid,” Rodgers said. “He had a great spring, he really understands the offense and he is making some plays at practice. He didn’t have the greatest training camp, but he needs an opportunity to get his confidence going. He brings versatility and he has a bright future for us, it is just a matter of opportunities.”
Other News and Notes: McCarthy said second-year cornerback Casey Hayward told him that he is “making progress” while recovering from a hamstring injury.
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