COMMENTARY | The hope is that as the NFL season progresses, the roster slowly grows to full strength. That hope has had a tendency to to turn into wishful thinking for the Green Bay Packers over recent years, a team that has watched its injury list grow more crowded by the week.
Eight players breached the injury report for Week 3, and that doesn't include the nine players that are either on the injured reserve or PUP list. New additions this week were running back Eddie Lacy (concussion), and left guard T.J. Lang (back), who was limited in Thursday's practice.
In Week 2, there were only six players on the injury list -- four players before that leading up to the game at San Francisco. What's promising is that we can probably expect Lang, defensive tackle Johnny Jolly (neck) and tight end Jermichael Finley (toe) to suit up against the Cincinnati Bengals, but beyond that, it's anyone's guess.
At Thursday's post-practice press conference, head coach Mike McCarthy said that safety Morgan Burnett, who missed the first two games of the season with a hamstring injury, is a longshot to play against the Bengals.
In other words, don't plan on seeing Burnett suit up. That means we'll get plenty of Jerron McMillian and a healthy dose of Chris Banjo alongside the doctor, M.D. Jennings.
McMillian had all sorts of problems against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1, but bounced back nicely last Sunday against the Washington Redskins. As for Banjo, the standout from preseason play has impressed defensive coordinator Dom Capers, so look for him to get some more reps.
The news regarding Lacy isn't quite as gloomy, but according to McCarthy, the rookie tailback will have to practice on Friday to have a chance at playing on Sunday. He's been a no-go so far this week, although he did take a positive step in terms of concussion protocol, and the team feels like he has a chance to play.
If Lacy doesn't pass the necessary tests to practice Friday and therefore play on Sunday, it will be James Starks taking over the No. 1 running back duties once again. Lacy was knocked out of the game on his first carry, but Starks wound up rushing 20 times for 132 yards and a touchdown in his absence.
The knock on Starks is that he has never been good in pass protection and is injury prone. In fact, Starks was hours from getting the axe on final cut day, but a season-ending injury to DuJuan Harris may have saved his fate.
We know what Starks is capable of when he's healthy. He was the last Packer to rush for 100 yards (playoffs in 2010) before spilling over the century mark against the Washington Redskins last Sunday. Of course, his full name might as well be "James Starks When He's Healthy."
Beyond Starks, the only other active running back is Jonathan Franklin, who has also had his struggles in pass protection as well as learning the playbook. He has a grand total of zero carries this season. The availability of fullback John Kuhn (hamstring) remains in doubt, as he hasn't practiced this week.
The bye week, even though it's coming so early in the season, surprisingly comes at a good time for the Packers considering the nagging injuries. Should players like Lacy, Burnett, Kuhn, Jarrett Bush (hamstring) and Casey Hayward (hamstring) progress like they should, their return in Week 5 is probable.
Friday will be a vital day, but don't bet the farm on Burnett and Lacy being cleared to play against the Bengals.
Dave Radcliffe is a resident of a little known Milwaukee suburb who is an avid follower of Wisconsin sports. He has contributed to JSOnline, as a featured columnist on other sites and publications, and been a guest on multiple sports talk radio shows.
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- Eddie Lacy
- James Starks