Driver, Woodson discuss lost season

With their careers winding down, see what the veteran players had to say about a season that started with high hopes but fell short of expectations.

Charles Woodson answered the question with a knowing nod.

Donald Driver answered it with sheer defiance and a touch of humor.

For the 32-year-old Woodson and the soon-to-be 34-year-old Driver, this season was a lost cause. Another year wasted as they try to add a championship to their superlative individual accomplishments. Ditto for left tackle Chad Clifton, who will have turned 33 by the time training camp begins.

"It doesn't hurt me. I've got a whole career left," Driver said. "I'm not done yet. I'm about as young as Greg (Jennings) in dog years, so I'm right on pace."

It was almost one year ago when Driver walked into the Packers' locker room. It was halftime of the NFC championship game. The Packers led the New York Giants 10-6, and Driver — so close to reaching the Super Bowl — was crying.

At the end of that frigid Sunday night, though, the Packers lost 23-20 in overtime. Big things were expected from the 2008 team, with or without Brett Favre, but the Packers were drowned under a tsunami of close losses and devastating late-game breakdowns.

"I don't think we imagine ourselves not being in the postseason," Driver said. "We came in here to training camp and we were thinking about a world championship. That's what we thought about. When you don't get there, it hurts. You think about last year and how close we were to getting to the Super Bowl. This year, you just kind of thought, ‘We'll be back in that same boat once again.'"

Nonetheless, the defiant Driver didn't see this as a wasted season because he sees plenty of sand remaining in his career hour glass. After a 74-catch, 1,000-yard season in which he showed his old legs aren't really so old, who can blame him?

"When you start thinking about that, in your mind and your heart, that means your career is winding down," Driver said. "I don't feel that way. I feel like my career has just begun once again. God has blessed me to play a game that I love to play. He's blessed me with ability, so I'm able to go out there week in and week out and perform.

"I don't go back and start thinking about what this season means and what that seasons mean. You're going to remember seasons all the time. How that moment was to you when you were in the NFC championship game or when you were 4-12. You're going to remember those moments. But it still doesn't define who you are or the person you are. I think you've just got to understand that you play a game and not too many people are able to play this game."

Woodson offered a more realistic take when this reporter tactfully suggested the Pro Bowl cornerback is closer to the end of his career than the beginning.

"I guess I'm no spring chicken. But, yeah, you want to win now," Woodson said. "I've only been to the Super Bowl once (with Oakland). Wasn't able to win it. You never know when that opportunity is going to come back around. Ever. There's been people that have never won it, and I don't want to be that person. I want to win one. For me, this year is just another missed opportunity to win a ring."

Clifton lamented the missed opportunities that ruined a season that started so strong with wins over Minnesota and Detroit.

"Regardless of how many years I have left — who knows, on a personal level — but just for the team, I hate that we let so many opportunities slip away," Clifton said. "I think we lost seven games by four or fewer points. To be so close to having a good season and having those games slip away in the fourth quarter, it's frustrating."

The unanimous opinion among the players was a quick turnaround was possible for next season. Woodson, as well as 34-year-old cornerback Al Harris, suggested general manager Ted Thompson be more active in free agency.

"No question. No question. We need it," said Woodson, who Thompson signed as a free agent in 2006.

Meanwhile, Driver is content to chalk this up as simply "one of those years."

"Everybody says you're going to have seasons like this, and we've had one," Driver said. "We have had that season. We just hope that next year we don't have this type of season."

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com.


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