Is Driver being selfish or loyal?

With unemployment at about 10 percent and many No. 80-wearing Packers fans wondering how to make ends meet, Donald Driver's wish for a new contract smacks of greed. Packer Report publisher Bill Huber offers an alternative.

Sometimes, it's good to, as the saying goes, "sleep on it" for a night.

The big news to come out of Thursday's practice was Donald Driver's absence. The Wisconsin State Journal reported — and Packer Report confirmed — that Driver is not attending the voluntary workouts because of displeasure over his contract, which expires after the 2010 season.

During our Wednesday night chat, I framed Driver's demand for more money around the nation's ongoing economic problems. With unemployment hovering around 10 percent, houses in foreclosure around the country, countless retirees now without their golden-years savings and the Big Three automakers in deep trouble, who wants to hear about another multimillionaire squawking about money?

Frankly, I'd rather be subjected to a thousand days of Favre rumors.

Contrast Driver's decision to skip the first week of organized team activities with the choices made by Greg Jennings and Tramon Williams. If anybody should have been a thousand miles from the Don Hutson Center this week, it would have been those two guys.

Jennings has scored 21 touchdowns over the last two seasons while making — relatively speaking, of course — chump change. This season, Jennings will be playing for $535,000, which is the league minimum for a player with his experience.

Williams earned about $376,000 for intercepting five passes last season. For sake of comparison, fellow cornerback Pat Lee made $945,000 for spending most of his rookie season on injured reserve. Or, for an even bigger insult, punter Derrick Frost made $605,000 for earning the nickname Sir Shanks-A-Lot.

But there they were on Thursday, practicing like they had something to prove. In the locker room, they were their usual happy, smiling selves. Jennings apparently is so irked by his contract situation that he joked about shaking his head in disappointment when he passed by general manager Ted Thompson the other day.

So, with that as ammunition, I was going to come out firing away at the beloved Driver.

Then I woke up with a change of heart.

Is there something unseemly about Driver's situation, considering he's set to make more than $6 million this season in salary and bonuses and had his contract reworked in 2006 and 2007? Yes, especially considering the hard decisions faced daily by many people who proudly wear his No. 80 jersey.

At the same time, it's no secret that the Brett Favre saga from last year hit Driver hard. They were friends, and their on-field chemistry is hard to overstate. Favre loved being a Green Bay Packer, and so does Driver. When Favre retired, Driver quickly picked up the mantle of Favre's celebrity softball game. At last year's game, Driver wore a No. 4 Packers jersey.

More than likely, Driver's decision to skip this week of OTAs has absolutely nothing to do with greed. Instead, Driver likely just wants another year or two tacked onto his contract. There's something romantic about playing your entire career with one team, especially a team in which he rose from anonymous seventh-round pick to Pro Bowler.

Favre, for a number of reasons, didn't get that opportunity, and now he's reportedly considering playing for the rival Minnesota Vikings, which would act as a knife to the back of the legions of Packer fans who supported Favre through good times and bad.

Driver doesn't want to be in that position. The fans love Driver, and he loves them. His rags-to-riches story and winning smile have warmed countless hearts and raised untold dollars for charities and worthy causes. He knows that if he plays out his contract and becomes a free agent, there's at least a decent chance he'd receive a contract offer big enough to force Thompson to tell Driver thanks for the memories. The Packers have a lot of salary cap space. With a lot of free agents to sign after this season, that might not be the case next year.

Sorry to say, but there's no room for sentimentality in business, and professional sports is a business. The bottom line is winning and losing. Still, the Packers took a public-relations hit in the Favre fiasco that can be fixed only by another championship.

Then again, sometimes, exceptions must be made. It might not be a prudent move to be paying big bucks to a 36-year-old receiver in 2011, but losing Driver would be another bruise to a franchise that prides itself on being different than the other teams.


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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. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook.


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