Driver will keep playing â€” elsewhere if need be
GREEN BAY, Wis. — Donald Driver wants to play until he's 40 years old and knows that the Packers may not give him the opportunity to do so in Green Bay. So, after playing his entire 13-year career with the Packers, Driver is bracing for the possibility that he just played his final game wearing the only NFL uniform he's ever known.
"If I get an opportunity to come back and play, I will," Driver said Monday while speaking with reporters in front of his Green Bay locker for perhaps the final time. "If not, I'll go somewhere else and play and I'll see them down the road. The thing is, it's not up to me. The Packers have to make that decision.
"I've always said I wanted to play until I'm 40. My goal is just to continue to play."
Driver, who will turn 37 in two weeks, was drafted in the seventh round by Green Bay in 1999 and gradually made his way from last on the depth chart to being the franchise's all-time leader in catches and receiving yards.
However, as fellow receiver Greg Jennings continued to emerge in recent years as quarterback Aaron Rodgers' main target, Driver entered his mid-30s and began a quick decline in production. After six consecutive seasons of 1,000-plus receiving yards from 2004 to 2009, Driver had 565 yards last season and 445 this year.
"I haven't lost a step on anyone," Driver said. "The way things are going this year, I didn't get myself beat up a lot. I'll probably play until I'm 45. You never know. Wherever the road goes for me, I'm willing to follow it."
Driver was then asked directly if he had at all considered the possibility of retiring, to which he simply replied, "No."
"I'm not ready to hang the cleats up," Driver said later. "My wife feels like I still got it. I feel like I've still got it. If my family feels that way, then I'm going to continue to play. If the Packers don't want me, I've got to go somewhere else and play. I don't have a choice."
Driver has played his entire career alongside two MVP quarterbacks. In his first nine seasons, he was on the receiving end of fastballs from Brett Favre, although the two never did make it to the Super Bowl together. In Driver's third season with Rodgers as his starting quarterback, he won his first championship.
In 2008, Driver watched from home as the drama between Favre and the Packers added a new chapter, with general manager Ted Thompson telling Favre that Rodgers was now the starting quarterback in Green Bay.
It was that situation — the team's front office deciding to replace a veteran with a young player — that Driver is recalling now that he's playing the role of Favre.
"I think one guy played here a long time, he didn't expect that to come either, but it came," Driver said. "And for him, it's a little bitter. For me, I think I prepared myself for it that it won't be bitter at all. It's business, and I have to do what I have to do.
"I knew it would come to an end some day, so I have to come to prepare myself for it, regardless of the situation. And I'm prepared for it, regardless if the Packers decide they go a different route, then I've got to go somewhere else and play, and I'm OK with it. Even if I don't want to do it, I have to do it."
If Thompson and the Packers decide to go with youth at wide receiver and allow Driver to sign elsewhere, the team has two promising talents on its practice squad. Both Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel signed with Green Bay in July 2011 after not being drafted and spent the season on the practice squad. Gurley was offered a contract late in the season to be on the Minnesota Vikings' active roster and declined, opting to stay with the Packers.
"If they decide to go a different route with the young players, then I've got to go do what I want to do," Driver said. "And that means either talk to my wife, sit down and make a decision on if I'm going to go somewhere else and play, or do I put the cleats up?
"Right now, I'm not ready to put the cleats up, so I guess I'll be going somewhere else to play."
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