Injured again in sweats standing along the sideline at the Oneida St. practice field while his teammates were getting ready for a game against the Baltimore Ravens Green Bay Packers running back James Starks wore an expression not befitting his circumstance.

Starks has been in this position numerous times and the frustration and despondency of being injured often seemed to hang over his entire person.

But almost three weeks removed from suffering a knee injury against Cincinnati Starks has been uncharacteristically upbeat and his presence at practice every day since the team came back from the bye is a sign he's in a different place from previous years.

"It was interesting today. I saw him out there and he had the scout team book with the card in it and he was talking to Eddie (Lacy) about a protection what did he see and what he thought he should do" running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said.

"That's big. He's locked in; he's in tune. Mentally he's staying into it. We're looking forward to his return."

Based on what coach Mike McCarthy and Van Pelt said Thursday that might not be too far away. The team's leading rusher with 34 carries for 187 yards and a touchdown may get a chance to test in front of the medical staff next week.

Starks suffered a significant knee injury late in the first half of the Bengals game. On a first-and-goal play at the 5 Starks got hit from the side before he had a chance to get into gear. After Starks hit the ground a lineman fell on his leg.

It appeared Starks could miss three or four games but he has bounced back well and could be available for Cleveland Oct. 20.

"I thought James Starks just the way he came out of the blocks in his rehab it wasn't going to be extremely long" McCarthy said. "But he's getting close. I'm told he's feeling better and he's got a great outlook on it so I don't think it's going to be as long as some of the past injuries."

With Starks out in the second half rookie Johnathan Franklin rushed for 103 yards but his late fumble cost the Packers a victory and his fumble against Detroit Sunday — recovered by Aaron Rodgers — has taken the shine off Franklin's relief performance.

Lacy returned from a concussion to gain 99 yards on 23 carries against the Lions and will be in the plans as long as he is healthy. But no one ran the ball as well as Starks who went for 132 yards against Washington and had another 55 in one half against the Bengals.