Every time the Green Bay Packers send a running back out on the field they ask themselves can this guy stand guard over the franchise?

Having the guy be a 1000-yard rusher is always nice. Being a decent receiver is a plus. But if he can't protect quarterback Aaron Rodgers he might as well not put on his cleats.

This is not breaking news around here but it does speak to the difficulty the Packers can encounter when they construct game plans. It is something they have to consider before taking the field to play the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium.

There is a chance the Packers will be without rookie Eddie Lacy (concussion) and veteran John Kuhn (hamstring) who represent exactly one half of their backfield. Neither practiced for the second straight day Thursday and each has one more practice to show he can help against the Bengals.

"Eddie Lacy took a step today in the (concussion) protocol so we'll see where he is tomorrow" coach Mike McCarthy said. "The medical staff still feels like he has a good opportunity so he has to practice tomorrow for us to be able to gauge him. We'll see where he is tomorrow."

Even if he were to practice Friday the odds of the Packers suiting him up for what would be a part-time role don't seem very good. They have already declared James Starks the starter and are prepared for him to handle the bulk of the snaps at halfback.

Kuhn's status is unknown and his absence could create a serious problem especially where pass protection is concerned. In the past he has been Rodgers' personal bodyguard on third downs because of his ability not only to pick up blitzes but also to point out to others that they are coming.

"John is a big loss in a lot of ways special teams protection" running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said of the potential not to have Kuhn. "His ability to play the game he knows the ins and outs of the game. He understands what we're trying to get done."

If both are out that leaves Starks and rookie Johnathan Franklin who has not played a single snap from scrimmage this year to handle the halfback duties. Tight ends Andrew Quarless Jermichael Finley and Ryan Taylor would handle fullback duties.

McCarthy did not rule out the possibility that practice squad running back Michael Hill would be signed to add some depth. Hill proved to be a reliable blocker during training camp with San Diego and was edged out of a roster spot on the final cutdown before joining the Packers.

"The preference is not to go into the game with two running backs" McCarthy said. "I did that one time in Kansas City learned a hard lesson especially when one of them was nicked going into that game. It hurt us in the second half.