Rookie James Starks practiced Monday, his first real session since he hurt his hamstring just before training camp started. The injury was another major setback for the sixth-round pick from Buffalo, who missed his entire senior season after needing shoulder surgery in August 2009.
The last time Starks played in a game was Jan. 3, 2009 in the International Bowl.
"It feels a lot longer. I've been out for a while," Starks said Monday. "I'm just getting back into things, getting back gradually. I started getting more comfortable and feeling like myself again."
After sitting out all of camp, Starks spent the first six weeks of the season on the physically unable to perform list. After that, the Packers coaches gave him another three weeks off and then activated him. He then still had the bye week off before finally practicing for the first time.
The Packers have shown how much they believe in the potential of Starks by being remarkably patient. They've always had the option of just shelving Starks on injured reserve for the year.
"I wasn't really worried. I always looked at things in a positive light," Starks said. "If I was placed on injured reserve, that was time to get better. I would have used it as a tool to help myself."
Instead, Starks said the hamstring gradually got better.
"And I feel you've got to learn to play with injuries anyway," Starks said. "About the time I was off PUP, it was just enough time to really feel good and start picking up the tempo."
Packers coach Mike McCarthy said Starks looked "dang good" in practice. The 6-foot-2, 218-pound back set Buffalo's single-season rushing record with 1,333 yards in 2008, and the Packers hope to recapture that ability at some point.