Driver keeping it parked in Green Bay

Donald Driver, a low-round longshot to make the team when he was drafted by the Packers in 1999, signed a five-year contract extension today. The Packers were able to lock up their top receiver before he hit the free agent market.<p>

But Driver said he never intended to leave Green Bay.

"The fans, the coaches, the players, you can't get it any better than this," said an emotional Driver today at a press conference announcing his re-signing. "That makes every decision easy for you. When you've got a coaching staff and team that loves you dearly, you can tell that they don't want you to go anywhere. In the off-season, I talked to Coach (Mike) Sherman and he said, 'Hey, quit looking. You're not going anywhere.' I kept saying (smiles), 'Well, I don't know.' He said, 'No, you're not going anywhere. Whatever I have to do to keep you here, I'm going to do it.'

"My wife (Betina) made it easy. She said, 'Hey, I don't want to go find any new friends. I love Green Bay. I love the fans. I love the coaching staff. I love their wives.' It made it pretty easy for me after that."

Driver turned down a three-year deal worth about $3 million to sign with the Kansas City Chiefs during this recent off-season. He instead opted to sign a one-year tender as a restricted free agent for $563,000. Terms of his new contract were not revealved, but it is believed that it averages between $2 million to $3 million a season.

Not bad for a guy was was taken with the second pick of the seventh round in 1999 by Green Bay. But Driver's desire to reach the top of the depth chart in Green Bay has paid off.

"This guy brings an awful lot to our football team in more ways than you can ever imagine," said Packers coach/GM Mike Sherman. "He's not only a great player. He's a great person. We'd be here all day if I listed the things that he has done for us. ... I'm proud to say that he's going to be with us for five years and hopefully retire as a Green Bay Packer."

Driver caught only a combined 37 passes for 520 yards in his first three years with the Packers, playing behind Antonio Freeman and Bill Schroeder. He currently has a team-high 53 catches for 870 yards this season.

Driver, though, had a season-low 32 yards Sunday with three catches, equaling his season low. Worse, two of those receptions, covering 14 yards apiece, came in a fourth-quarter series as the Packers were trying to rally from a 21-7 deficit.

Until then, Driver's only catch occurred on a 4-yard touchdown throw from Favre with 5 minutes, 44 seconds remaining in the first quarter that staked the Packers to a 7-0 lead. Driver made a nice catch over cornerback Brian Kelly on a fade pass thrown to the left side of the end zone. It's the second straight game in which Driver has caught a touchdown pass. Earlier in the season, he caught five touchodwns during a four-game scoring streak.

Driver also had one rushing attempt Sunday, gaining 16 yards on a reverse handoff from Ahman Green on the third play of the game.

"He's got a future here," said Terry Glenn, the would-be No. 1 receiver obtained by the Packers from New England in an off-season trade. "He's been here for a number of years, and it's good to see a guy like that really get out there and be able to make plays." Driver, often choked by his emotion during his press conference, said the first thing he did after he signed the deal was call his grandmother "It was so surprising - to tell her, 'You don't have to work any more,' and that was my goal for years and years and years and I think it was more emotional for them than it was for me."


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