Driver urged injured QB Rodgers to sit vs. Lions
Veteran wide receiver Donald Driver saw it in Aaron Rodgers' eyes: The quarterback wasn't quite right after taking hard hits on back-to-back plays, but he still wanted to go back in the game.
What happened next can be seen as another sign that NFL players' attitudes toward concussions is changing: Standing on the sideline during a close game at Detroit that was critical to the Green Bay Packers' playoff hopes, Driver helped talk his teammate into sitting out the rest of the game.
''I was very concerned about him,'' Driver said. ''I kind of whispered in his ear, walked behind him during the time he was sitting on the bench and kind of told him, 'This is just a game. Your life is more important than this game.' I told him I love him to death, and you've got to make the choice, but this game is not that important.''
Driver said Rodgers stood up and stared at him.
''I think I said, 'Aaron, you need to make a choice,''' Driver said. ''And that's when he realized he just couldn't go any more.''
The Packers lost the game 7-3 and face the possibility of having backup Matt Flynn at quarterback for Sunday night's game at New England. Rodgers, who also sustained a concussion Oct. 10 but played the following week, was not cleared to return to practice as of Thursday and a final decision on his status is not expected until Saturday.
Rodgers has been held out of team meetings and game film review during his recovery, and he has not spoken to reporters in Green Bay this week.
Playoff hopes aside, Driver's actions on the sideline in Detroit last Sunday could be considered a victory for concussion awareness advocates.
When Driver came into the league as a seventh-round draft pick in 1999, those who sat out with a concussion might have had their toughness questioned.
''That's changed tremendously,'' Driver said. ''It's not about being tough any more. I look at myself and injuries, I've always tried to fight through injuries. You've got to get to a point where your body tells you, you can't fight through that injury any more and you have to shut it down. And when you get to that point, you have to feel comfortable that you can just shut it down and feel good about it.''
NFL officials also have taken steps to increase safety, revising guidelines for players to get back on the field after a concussion and increasing penalties for illegal hits.
This week, The Associated Press reported that the number of concussions being reported in the NFL this season is up more than 20 percent from 2009, and more than 30 percent from 2008.
''People are more aware of what's going on,'' Driver said. ''Sooner or later, the NFL had to make a decision on how they look at hits, how they look at concussions.''
Driver believes the emphasis on safety may help extend careers, but acknowledged that players still feel compelled to get back on the field immediately after an injury - including Rodgers on Sunday.
''You could see it in his eyes,'' Driver said. ''He still wanted to play. But I think when you start looking at a guy and know he's not into it, you've got to help him make a decision. And it was pretty easy for me, because I saw it in his face, that he wasn't truly into the game any more, or he lost a little bit. And that's when I got to the point, I just kind of told them. They asked me, 'How's Aaron?' I was like, 'He's not good.' But he had to make that choice on his own, and it was good that he made the right choice.''
Packers cornerback Charles Woodson said it was obvious that Rodgers wasn't right.
''I could tell on the field,'' Woodson said. ''You can tell on the field when a guy is really out of it, if they're kind of stuck. And he was stuck. You knew it was something. He's got to be smart.''
That said, Woodson believes Rodgers will try to play Sunday against the Patriots.
''He's a football player, and that's how we are,'' Woodson said. ''We're going to play. I know if the doctors say, 'Hey, we don't think there's a problem,' he's going to play. (If not), I guarantee he'll lobby to play. That's how we are. That's how we're cut.''