It was a big day for young Jordy Nelson.
And a gutty day for aging Donald Driver.
Nelson caught five passes for 91 yards and a 50-yard touchdown in the Green Bay Packers’ 49-23 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday. He also signed a three-year contract extension worth $13.35 million, according to ESPN’s John Clayton. Nelson, who was in the last year of his contract, will be locked up through the 2014 season.
“It’s been great,” Nelson, for a lengthy feature in the upcoming Packer Report Magazine, said of living in Green Bay after growing up on a farm near Manhattan, Kan. “It’s a perfect fit for my family and myself. We like it here. My wife loves it here. It’s made it an easy transition. It allows you to focus on football. There’s no other distraction out there. The family comes up, it’s to come up and watch the game. It’s not to come up and go shopping or go do this or go do that because there’s not much shopping in Green Bay. Being here allows you to focus but yet you can get away from football a little bit.”
Nelson is third on the team with 15 receptions and second with 292 yards. With three touchdowns, Nelson has set a career high. His 21 receptions in the playoffs last season tied Greg Jennings for the NFL lead and, with Jennings, set a franchise record for most receptions during a postseason.
While Nelson’s career in Green Bay has been cemented, Driver momentarily thought his career might be over. Safety Brian Dawkins got to the goal line to stop Aaron Rodgers from scoring on an 11-yard scramble in the second quarter, then tumbled to the turf and leg-whipped Driver.
The 36-year-old Driver grasped his left knee and was consoled by numerous teammates while and after being helped to the sideline by James Jones and Randall Cobb. Driver was driven to the locker room for examination. He sought divine intervention in hopes that it wouldn’t be the last play of his record-setting career.
“Emotional? Yes,” Driver said. “Once I got in and they checked it, once you see nothing’s broken, you get a little bit more excited. (Dr. Pat McKenzie) told me that, ‘Hey, everything’s fine as far as being broken. Just relax and take a shower.’ I told him, ‘I ain’t taking a shower. I’m going to finish playing the game.’”
When the Packers’ offense trotted onto the field to start the third quarter, there was Driver.
“Let me tell you, he’s the ultimate gladiator,” Jennings said. “He almost had us in tears because you see a guy who pours in everything week in, week out, every practice, doesn’t miss a practice, and then you see him take a hit like that and you see him grabbing his knee and it’s like, ‘Oh, my gosh, please God, let this not be it.’ Fortunately for us and for him, he was able to bounce back. He’s the ultimate gladiator. It’s a credit to him and his offseason training and his time that he puts in.”
Driver, who was held without a catch last week at Chicago, scored the Packers’ final points with an 8-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
“It was extra special,” Driver said. “We’ve been working on that same play in practice. Once I saw the linebacker, I said, ‘A-Rod’s going to wait on me.’ We talked about exactly the same move. ‘Go behind him a little bit, come back out and I’ll look the other way and come back and get you.’ That’s exactly what happened.”
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.