When to say when

Packers need to be careful with Driver in preseason

Donald Driver got a contract extension which practically ensures that he will retire as a Green Bay Packer. That's the good news, especially for Driver, a one-time low round draft pick who has climbed among the elite receivers in the National Football League.

The not-so-good news with Driver lately is his ailing right shoulder. He will tell you it's fine, and the Packers will tell you that he has told them it's fine. But that is debatable. In practice on Monday, Driver fell hard on his shoulder while attempting to catch a deep pass over cornerback Al Harris in a 7-on-7 drill. In the past, Driver normally would pop right up and jog back, always ready to return and make that next catch. On Monday, Driver lie on his back for a few seconds before getting up. When he did get up, it seemed very obvious that he was feeling the effects of falling on his shoulder. Still, like the gutty player he is, Driver never missed any of his reps and participated in the rest of the scrimmage.

In a similar situation during the team's Family Night scrimmage Saturday, Driver made a beautiful over-the-shoulder catch for a 34-yard completion, but fell hard on his right shoulder. He also took a few moments to get up before returning to the huddle. There also have been other times during training camp when Driver took a moment to make sure he was OK before resuming practice.

Driver is the offense's No. 1 play-maker. He certainly deserved the big pay raise and opportunity to retire as a member of the Packers. The Packers need him more than ever this season. While it's important that he practice and get the timing of passes down with Brett Favre, it seems that there are also times that he should be pulled a little sooner from a practice or scrimmage for the sake of preservation. The Packers have been doing it with other veterans, like Al Harris, Charles Woodson, Chad Clifton, and Favre.

Hopefully, Driver and the Packers will know when to say when during the upcoming preseason games, which begin Saturday at Pittsburgh. It seems that Driver is one solid hit away from being out for an extended period of time, or possibly the season. That solid hit could definitely come during a preseason game from some free agent trying to make an impression so he can make the team.

"I just go off of the feedback of the player," says coach Mike McCarthy of Driver. "He feels fine. He did not have a whole lot of strength in that shoulder. For whatever reason, it was bothering him when he first came back. But he feels fine. He's very pro-active with his rehab and his conditioning. You're always going to be smart with your veteran players when you get into these preseason games, as far as Brett Favre, Donald Driver, Chad Clifton, Al Harris and Charles Woodson, and a few others. That's what we do. We'll probably do that Thursday, talk about the play time each week."

McCarthy and his staff know what Driver can do on the field. There isn't anything that he has to prove. So the more cautious the Packers can be with the Pro Bowl receiver, including in practices, the better off the team will be during the regular season.

Todd Korth

Todd Korth is managing editor of PackerReport.com and Packer Report magazine. E-mail him at packrepted@aol.com.

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