Defiant Driver: Play until I'm 40

Donald Driver downplayed his wish for a new contract on Wednesday and promised to be in Green Bay for the rest of OTAs and the minicamp. The former seventh-round pick, who is 18 catches behind Sterling Sharpe's franchise record, talked with pride about the legacy he is building during a conversation with Packer Report.

Pride and defiance have been a winning recipe for Donald Driver.

It's worked well for 10 seasons. So, why not 17 or 19?

"I want to play until I'm 40," Driver told reporters on Wednesday, six days after making headlines by being a no-show for the first week of organized team activities. "I want to prove to the world that I can play that long. One of my idols was Jerry Rice. He played a long time. I'm hoping to surpass him, if I can. Just in years. I don't know if I'll ever catch him in yards and passes. That'll never happen."

To compete until he's 40, Driver will have to play through the 2015 season. To match Rice, he'll have to play until he's 42. It's a ridiculous notion. At least, it seems that way.

Then again, defiance has gotten Driver this far. In 1999, Driver was selected in the seventh round with the 213th overall selection out of off-the-beaten-path Alcorn State. He was a twig at 174 pounds. He was a long shot to make the team, much less carve out a noteworthy career.

Just look at him today. He's a chiseled 194 pounds, and he figures to become the team's career receptions leader before the calendar turns to October. Even with first-year starter Aaron Rodgers looking more at Greg Jennings than Driver, he managed to catch 74 catches for 1,012 yards and five touchdowns.

And that was his worst season since 2003.

Driver embraced the mantle of "face of the franchise" upon Brett Favre's retirement and subsequent trade last year. So, Driver made waves when he skipped last week's OTAs in search of what a source confirmed to Packer Report was a new contract.

Driver, in his typically defiant manner, downplayed those reports on Wednesday.

"When I do something positive, it's never in the paper. When I do something negative — what somebody thinks was negative — boom, it's in the paper," Driver said. "So, I'm OK with the situation. I'm fine, and I'm happy about it. I love criticism, so you keep writing it, I'll keep proving you wrong."

While Driver confirmed agent Jordan Woy is talking to the Packers about "reworking" a contract that runs through 2010, he said "there's no drama" between him and the Packers. He said he was absent last week for family reasons. His wife was attending an out-of-state funeral and his son, Cristian, "graduated" from kindergarten.


Donald Driver had his fifth straight season of at least 70 catches and 1,000 yards last season.
AP Images
"Oh, yeah. Exactly," Driver told Packer Report when asked if he thought his absence was overblown by reporters. "I think a lot of people felt like they had sources and they felt like that's what they needed to say. No one had the official source, and I'm the official source. A lot of people are speculating on what they want to say, but I'm happy. I'm happy. I'm happy to be here. I'm happy about the contract. I'm happy with everything, because one thing about it is, when you come from where I come from, that type of money is a blessing. You can't take it for granted. I'm happy to be here as long as I've played here."

Coach Mike McCarthy was happy to see Driver on the field, and Driver said he and the coach "have a good relationship." Driver also has a good relationship with Jennings, who supplanted him as the Packers' go-to receiver with 80 catches for 1,292 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Jennings' contract expires after this season, and some linked Driver's absence to wanting to get a piece of the pie.

"Listen," Driver said. "I want them to give Greg $100 million. And I'm not complaining. You've got to understand one thing about Greg. Greg is a great athlete and he's going to continue playing probably longer than me. Regardless, I can't control what they give him now or what they're going to give him in the future. He'll probably see three of four contracts by the time I get done playing. I want him to get as much money as possible. I'm not trying to be the highest-paid receiver in the National Football League. I have never received that and it's never going to happen. I'm fine with what I have. I make good money and I'm happy about it."

That happiness was apparent on the field and in the locker room, with his megawatt smile blasting through the defiant streak that runs from head to toe. He said he'll be in Green Bay through the rest of OTAs, and promised he'd be at the June 22-24 minicamp with "ringing bells on."

Whether Driver plays until he's 36 or 46, he wants those years to be spent in Green Bay. He's seen what can happen to a player's legacy firsthand when his close friend, Favre, wound up playing last year in New York. And the green-and-gold pride that formed when he was drafted 10 years ago continues to burn with intensity.

"It's very important," Driver told Packer Report when asked how important it is to spend his entire career in Green Bay. "I came here in 1999. I was so excited to be drafted and get that opportunity. Ron Wolf gave me that opportunity here and I told him when he drafted him, I promised that I would never let him down and contribute everything I can to this organization.

"The biggest thing is to win the championship. If I can win the championship, then I've done mostly everything that you want to do. Not just one ring, but two or three. That would make your legacy so much better. That's my goal. My goal is to have a legacy around here, like Brett and like Bart (Starr) and like Don Hutson and those great guys that played before me. That's what you go down as. You want to go down as one of the greatest players in Packer history."


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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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