Driver Disappears After Strong Training Camp
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Driver Disappears After Strong Training Camp

Mike McCarthy singled out Donald Driver during training camp. In retrospect, Driver said he had a "perfect" camp. Nonetheless, the franchise's career leader in receptions and yards was practically invisible in what's probably his farewell season with the team.

Donald Driver insists he had no regrets.

He agreed to a pay cut to remain with the team he'd served with flash and class since 1999. Coming off a season in which he scored seven touchdowns, the 37-year-old Driver showed there was some gas in the tank this summer.

"I think Donald's having a very consistent camp," coach Mike McCarthy said at one point. "He's had a couple of big nights where he was very productive. Just the way he goes about his business is really kind of the way he's gone about it his whole career. He's the same guy every day. He practices the same way every day. He's just a very tough individual. He brings a toughness to our team that I don't think people realize behind that smile. He looks good. He looks real good."

And then, the regular season came.

Driver caught eight passes for 77 yards in 13 games. In four of those 13 games, he never saw a pass thrown his direction. In fact, after a 12-yard reception against Detroit on Nov. 18 extended his franchise records to 743 receptions and 10,137 yards, Driver never caught a pass and was targeted only once.

"I thought I had an amazing training camp. I'm not going to deny that," Driver told Packer Report before exiting the locker room on Sunday. "I think everything I did was perfect but that's the way it goes. You get young fellas in and, like I've always said, your age catches up with you before your performance. I had to deal with that part."

Driver played in just 14 snaps from scrimmage over the final seven games. Inactive the previous two weeks, Driver played on special teams in the playoff loss to San Francisco. He said it "meant everything" to be active in what likely was his final game with the team.

"You didn't know if that was going to be your last day or not, but if it is my last game, then it was a true honor just to put that uniform on once again," Driver said. "I wore that uniform for a long time and it's truly a blessing to be wearing the green and gold."

Driver wound up getting lost on the depth chart. Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson were considered the unit's best players. Randall Cobb was drafted to fill Driver's role and wound up with a team-high 80 receptions. James Jones led the NFL with 14 touchdown receptions. Undrafted rookie Jarrett Boykin earned a role on special teams and first-year receiver Jeremy Ross added more special-teams value and eventually got a shot returning kicks.

"There was a reason for it and they're looking at building their team at the receiver group," Driver said when asked if he was upset or disappointed in how the season turned out. "You have to understand what the situation was and I was OK with the situation."

Driver says he can still play, even with his 38th birthday on Feb. 2. If he hadn't taken the pay cut, maybe he would have been a key player elsewhere.

It's hard to imagine that Driver wouldn't have had a role for Minnesota at the end of the season, especially after Percy Harvin landed on injured reserve. Without Harvin, No. 3 receiver Jarius Wright caught 22 passes. His hometown Houston Texans got a meager 10 receptions from No. 3 receiver Keshawn Martin. In Dallas, where former Packers receivers coach Jimmy Robinson holds that same title, the Cowboys' No. 3 receiver, Kevin Ogletree, caught 32 balls. In Miami, where former Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin is the head coach, No. 3 receiver Rishard Matthews caught 11 balls.

"I feel like I can play anywhere. It doesn't matter where I play," Driver said. "I've always said I'd never want to play for another organization. It's going to be a tough decision I have to make. If teams are calling and I have to make a decision to go somewhere else, then I'll have to make that decision."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.