Driver, the franchise’s all-time leading receiver, has been with Green Bay for 14 years since being drafted in the seventh round in 1999. He was already a very well-liked figure among Packers fans, but that popularity exploded during the spring of 2012, when he became a “Dancing with the Stars” champion.
Driver suffered a thumb injury late in the season, but that was never serious enough to keep him off the field. He was healthy for last weekend’s playoff win over the Minnesota Vikings, yet Green Bay’s coaching staff decided to make him inactive in what could have been Driver’s last opportunity to play at Lambeau Field.
“Donald Driver is a class act, to say the least,” coach Mike McCarthy said this week. “He’s a pro’s pro. He does everything ever asked of him. We’ve had conversations of late here, with part of what’s going on with him being active and inactive, and he’s handled it very well. He’s an excellent teammate. Everybody clearly understands what he means to this organization and what he’s done. He’s out there preparing every day, getting ready to play.
“He may have an opportunity this week. We’ll see how it shakes down. Those are very difficult decisions to make when you have a healthy 53 (player roster) to get to 46 (on game day). When you put the emphasis on special teams and you have young man like Terrell Manning that gets his opportunity and he wins a game ball on special teams and also has the ‘big hit’ award, that’s why you have to make those kind of decisions. It’s part of the way it sorts out through game-planning, and special teams obviously plays into it.”
The only scenario in which Driver will get another shot at doing one more Lambeau Leap is if the Packers win their divisional round game Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers and the Seattle Seahawks upset the Atlanta Falcons on the road. If that happens, Green Bay will host the Seahawks in the NFC Championship Game.
Driver, who will turn 38 on Feb. 2, has only eight catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns this season. He hasn’t caught a pass since Week 11.
Driver signed a restructured one-year contract with the Packers after winning “Dancing with the Stars” and will be a free agent this offseason. It seems highly unlikely Green Bay will bring him back for a 15th season, but Driver has indicated numerous times that he’d like to play in the NFL until he’s 40.
In Driver’s career with the Packers, he’s played 205 games and has 743 receptions, 10,137 yards and 61 touchdowns.