GREEN BAY, Wis. — A golf outing with Donald Driver has current Green Bay Packers wide receiver James Jones thinking that his former teammate may be having second thoughts about retirement.
Driver retired in February after 14 years with the Packers, but Jones interpreted their recent conversations to be that the franchise’s all-time leading receiver might want a 15th NFL season in Green Bay.
“I guess he’s feeling like everybody feels when you’ve been playing football since you were 7 and now all of a sudden it’s done and you kind of get those bubble guts and stuff when training camp comes back around and you want to be back out there playing,” Jones said of Driver. “I’m assuming he wants to play, that’s why he hasn’t turned in his (retirement) papers or anything.”
During his visit to Houston for Driver’s golf tournament, Jones questioned the 38-year-old’s decision to retire in the first place.
“He tells me every day how much he’s staying in shape, and I tell him every day, ‘Why did you retire?,'” Jones said. “‘If you still wanted to play, you should’ve still tried to play. Don’t let nobody walk you away from the game if you can still try to play.’ But at the time he felt like he was done and didn’t want to play football anymore. I talked to him in Houston, and he said, ‘Man, I didn’t want to play football anymore. I felt like I was done. Me and (general manager) Ted (Thompson) and (head coach) Mike (McCarthy) and everybody was on the same page.'”
Earlier this summer, Driver made it clear that he would definitely return to the NFL if Thompson and the Packers were interested in a reunion.
“If the Packers called me and said, ‘Drive, come back to training camp,’ I’d be back for training camp,” Driver said June 16. “But until then, I’ll be sitting at home and just watching football.”
Driver claimed he was getting attention from other NFL teams since his retirement, but he decided to reject any offers that didn’t come from Green Bay.
“I think the thing is, if you have the itch to continue to play, then it doesn’t matter who you play for, because that’s what you want to do,” Driver said on June 16. “You just want to play the game. I love the game, but I only love one team. When you love the game, you’ll play for anybody. Anybody who offers you something, you’re willing to step on the field and play for them.
“I decided that I love one team. But I do love the game. At the end of the day, if I get that itch, it would only be for the green and gold.”
There could suddenly be an open receiver spot with the Packers. Both of Green Bay’s seventh-round pick receivers, Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey, were injured in Saturday’s practice. Johnson will have an MRI done on his left knee. Also, wide receiver Sederrick Cunningham’s wrist injury required surgery and will keep him sidelined for an extended period of time.
“As of right now, I hope our young guys get healthy,” Jones said. “I’m a big fan of D-Drive, but that’s for them to talk about upstairs. If I was a GM and stuff, I would’ve brought a bunch of players in here if people got hurt. But Ted believes in everybody in this locker room, and so does Mike, so you’ve got to give them guys a chance to get healthy.”
Driver was not a big part of the Packers’ offense over the past two seasons. In 2012, Driver had only eight catches for 77 yards. In his career, though, Driver totaled 743 receptions, 10,137 yards and 61 touchdowns.
Driver’s departure from Green Bay was a major event. The Packers hosted a public retirement party for Driver while giving him a key to the city and his own statue. The city of Green Bay also renamed a street Driver Way.
“I miss it a little bit; not much,” Driver said in June. “I think the training camp part of it, and minicamps and OTAs, I’d never miss that. I think once September hits and I know it’s kicked off, I think that’s when it will really hit me that I’m not playing football anymore.”