At worst, he was over the hill. At best, there were younger, cheaper and potentially better options just waiting for their chance.
Instead, Driver has been one of the better players at Green Bay Packers training camp. During Tuesdays practice, he scored three touchdowns. On Wednesday, he got behind the No. 1 defense and hauled in an Aaron Rodgers pass that probably traveled 50 yards in the air.
Over the hill?
"I'll take it," Driver told Packer Report after Tuesday's touchdown fest. "I'm having fun. That's what it's all about. It doesn't matter how many balls you get in a day; just have fun. I'm continuing to have fun out there and I'm hoping that, when it's all said and done, I can score more touchdowns."
With 37 receptions for 445 yards last year, Driver had his least-productive season since his third season back in 2001. Randall Cobb is ready for a massively expanded role. Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel are ready to get off the practice squad and embark on their professional careers.
Driver, however, said he's not driven by the young lions who are giving chase. Rather, he's driven by those who doubt him. He was doubted in 1999, when he was an afterthought as a seventh-round pick. He was doubted the last two seasons, as he became less and less of a threat with his per-catch averages of 11.1 and 12.0 yards being among the worst of his career. He was doubted again entering training camp.
"That's exactly what it's been since I walked in here in 1999," he said. "It's not about the guys in the locker room. It's about the people outside the locker room. The people outside the locker room that doubt you, those are the ones you want to prove wrong. I'm going to continue to play and prove them wrong."
Driver said there's "no bitterness" about the new contract that slashed his salary in half. From the team's perspective, retaining him seemed like more of a public relations decision than a football decision, given Driver's decreased production and the depth at the position. However, Driver's strong start to camp hints that this season might be something more than a farewell tour.
"Donald's so consistent, and that's one thing you always admire about Donald," coach Mike McCarthy said on Tuesday. "The thing that is overlooked is that he's clearly one of the tougher players to come through these doors. So, his consistency and toughness is something that is an incredible example. Just when you don't hear from him for a little while he goes out and makes two or three big plays. So, he's the all-time pro. He's what you're looking for."
Added receivers coach Edgar Bennett on Wednesday: "Donald's a competitor. He's going to go out, be it at practice or be it on Sunday, and compete. For him to go out and do what he's been able to do, I don't think that should surprise anyone."
From Driver's perspective, there was really no decision, he said, because his family wanted to stay and playing anywhere else "would have hurt" the fans who have supported him on and off the field. Had Driver refused his pay cut, he would have been released but no doubt would have landed somewhere — perhaps his hometown of Houston — and been in position to put up better numbers than he will here.
"A 1,000-yard season doesn't mean anything anymore," Driver said. "Winning championships mean more than anything else. Early in my career, yeah, you had to get 1,000-yard seasons. That's what it was all about to get your name out in the National Football League. I think I've proven that people respect me as a player. So, that's not what I'm trying to get anymore. I'm just trying to get enough rings that I can shine a little bit more. If I could have two or three rings on, I could walk around with my head up a little bit high."
His head should be held high.
In 2009, Driver broke Sterling Sharpe's franchise record for receptions. In 2011, he broke James Lofton's franchise record for receiving yards. With 735 receptions, Driver ranks 32nd in NFL history and sixth among active players. With 10,060 yards, he ranks 35th in NFL history and seventh among active players. He's 15 receptions from moving into the top 30, and he's 33 receptions from moving past Hall of Famers Michael Irvin, Charlie Joiner, Lofton and Marshall Faulk and into 25th place. With 656 yards, he'd move past Hall of Famers Lance Alworth and Shannon Sharpe to move into the top 30.
"That's great company," Driver said. "There's a lot of great guys that have played in the National Football League, and to be among those guys, it's truly an honor. If I get up there, it would be great. Maybe one day that will give me that phone call that says, ‘Congratulations, you're going to enter the Hall of Fame.'"
Another Super Bowl championship would bolster Driver's Hall of Fame credentials. When the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, Driver watched from the sideline with a serious ankle injury sustained in the second quarter. The agony of the injury did nothing to diminish the thrill of the victory, but he'd love one more shot to play — and contribute — in the Super Bowl.
"Me and Charles (Woodson) have always talked about that we only played the first half of the Super Bowl. We've still got to play the second half," Driver said. "That means we have to finish the whole game. We want to get back so we can finish the whole game, so that's another motivation."
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.