Lacy battling injury; Rodgers fine with Starks

Sports Xchange

September 24, 2015 at 7:44 pm.

Eddie Lacy has been banged up early in the season. (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

Eddie Lacy has been banged up early in the season. (Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports)

GREEN BAY — A marquee Monday night matchup of premier running backs isn’t set in stone.

A modern-day Super Bowl I rematch between the Green Bay Packers (2-0) and the visiting Kansas City Chiefs (1-1) at Lambeau Field should be a ratings hit for ESPN. Yet, viewers could be left disappointed at the start of play if Eddie Lacy can’t join Chiefs counterpart Jamaal Charles on the grassy big stage.

Lacy is recovering this week from a sprained right ankle he sustained in the opening series of the Packers’ victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

With Lacy still sidelined Thursday as the Packers returned to the practice field, the uncertainty grows about the bruising halfback’s availability for Monday.

Head coach Mike McCarthy is holding out hope Lacy can be of service against the Chiefs.

McCarthy intimated earlier in the week that Lacy would play if he’s able to and gets the all-important green light from the medical staff.

Then, when asked Thursday if Lacy could play without the benefit of much practice time through the weekend, if at all, McCarthy responded, “I would definitely feel comfortable playing Eddie on a very limited basis as far as his practice reps.”

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers would be no less comfortable having James Starks as the lead back Monday, if the Packers wind up playing it safe with Lacy, who spent the final month of his rookie season in 2013 playing through an injury to the same ankle.

Starks took over for Lacy early in Sunday’s game and delivered with 20 carries for 95 yards.

“It just means more carries for James, and then we’ll have to get Alonzo (Harris) ready,” Rodgers said.

Harris, the team’s No. 3 back, has yet to play an official NFL game. He made the season-opening roster as an undrafted rookie but was inactive the first two games.

“He’s a talented guy, had a really good preseason, enough to make the team,” Rodgers said. “We just have to get him ready and get James the usual” reps in practice this week.

Rodgers is a fan of Starks, who continues to quietly go about his business in his sixth season with the Packers, who selected him in the sixth round. Starks overcame a hamstring injury to contribute in a big way as a rookie at the end of the Packers’ Super Bowl-title run in 2010 and has capably stepped in when needed in subsequent seasons.

Starks leads the Packers in rushing yards after the first two weeks with 97 yards in 22 carries, the same number of rushing attempts for Lacy, who has 94 yards.

“He had 20 carries last week. He can carry that type of load,” Rodgers said of Starks.

Until a determination is made on Lacy’s status for Monday – the preliminary designation will be made Saturday but could change right up to close to kickoff – McCarthy suggested he’s OK with a platoon of his top two backs.

“We could play 50-50 with Eddie and James if we had to,” McCarthy said.

If Lacy can’t go, the Packers also are covered in the backfield with versatile fullback John Kuhn and a change-of-pace look with either Randall Cobb or fellow speedy receiver Ty Montgomery lined up in the backfield.

McCarthy and play caller Tom Clements turned to Cobb and, to a lesser extent, Montgomery and tight end Richard Rodgers as the lone back in Green Bay’s game-winning touchdown drive in the fourth quarter against the Seahawks. Aaron Rodgers made good use of the short passing game out of those formations in the 10-play, 80-yard series, throwing three passes each to Cobb and Montgomery for 40 and 24 yards, respectively.

“If you can beat one guy, make one guy miss, you’re off to the races,” Cobb said of playing downhill. “At worst, you’re going to pick up four or five yards.”

–The Packers are seeking their first-ever home win against the Chiefs, who are 3-0-1 in games played in Wisconsin.

Kansas City has won all three games played at Lambeau Field, most recently 40-34 in overtime in 2003.

The teams’ first meeting in Wisconsin ended in a 10-10 tie at Milwaukee in 1973.

“I don’t know much about the history,” Matthews said. “I know we lost down there at Arrowhead (Stadium), but that’s about all I know about it.”
Matthews was referring to the Chiefs’ 19-14 upset victory at home against the then-unbeaten Packers late in the 2011 season. Green Bay came into the game with a 13-0 record. The teams haven’t played since then.

The Chiefs are one of only two opponents who haven’t lost to the Packers on the road. The other is the expansion Houston Texans, whose only trip to Wisconsin resulted in a 24-21 win in 2008.

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