Donald Driver says he has “plenty” of years left in him. Whether those years will be spent with the Green Bay Packers is out of his hands.
“I think you guys (saw) how I played this year,” Driver said on Monday in a somber Packers locker room. “I haven't lost a step on anyone. I think it's just going out there and getting opportunities. You get your opportunities, you make the best of them. My opportunities came this year, I made the best of them. Whenever they came, I did what I had to do. Whatever the road goes for me, I'm willing to follow it.”
Driver, who will turn 37 on Feb. 2, was the Packers’ best receiver during Sunday evening’s shocking playoff loss to the New York Giants. Driver caught three passes for a team-high 45 yards. One was a superb, diving 16-yard catch on third down in the third quarter. If the Packers decide to go in another direction with one of their impressive practice-squad players, Driver’s final catch during a record-setting career will be one to remember — a 16-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.
After the catch, which cut the deficit to 30-20 with 4:46 remaining, Driver blew a kiss to the fans in the north end zone.
He insists it wasn’t a kiss good-bye.
“I blow a kiss to the crowd every game since I’ve been here,” Driver said. “I walk out there, I blow a kiss to them; I come in the tunnel, I blow a kiss to them. That doesn’t change. The day that I know it’s over for me, I’ll run around the stadium and give all the fans love. I didn’t do that yesterday so that means I’m still coming back, unless something happens with the organization.”
Driver’s future is anything but secure, though he was productive in limited opportunities in the Packers’ diversified passing attack.
He finished with 37 catches for 445 yards and six touchdowns. His receptions and yards were his fewest since his third season way back in 2001, though his touchdown total was his highest since scoring eight times in 2006.
Along the way, Driver — already the franchise’s career leader in receptions — became the Packers’ career leader in receiving yards. In 13 seasons, he’s caught 735 passes for 10,060 yards and 59 touchdowns. He’s 32nd in NFL history in receptions, just 15 behind Hall of Famers Charlie Joiner and Michael Irvin, and sixth among active players. He’s tied with Hall of Fame tight end Shannon Sharpe for No. 35 on the NFL’s career yardage list and No. 7 among active players.
“It’s been a great career here in Green Bay,” Driver said. “To do the things that I’ve done and been a part of this great legacy and this great tradition, it’s something special. I’ve always said this, when they start talking about the great players, I hope I’ll be mentioned in that group. That’s something special.”
The NFL, of course, is a cold-hearted business, and career achievement means nothing when it comes time to picking the best 53 players on the final roster. Driver would be entering his final year under contract. His cap figure is $5 million, with a base salary of $2.6 million and a roster bonus of $2.2 million. That’s a lot of money for a part-time player, especially considering the Packers gave raises to Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel to keep them on the practice squad rather than lose them to the 53-man rosters of Minnesota and Tampa Bay, respectively.
“You don’t want to leave,” Driver said. “I’ve spent my whole career here, but like I said, I don’t make any of the decisions. If they decide not to bring me back, then I’m OK with that. I’ve done everything here in Green Bay, the fans have been very supportive of me throughout my career.”
Driver said he has no intention of retiring, and joked that he could play until he’s 45 given how good he’s feeling. If the Packers choose to save money on a younger player, Driver said he’s prepared to play for another team — though he swears he won’t be bitter, like his friend and former teammate, Brett Favre.
“If the Packers don’t want me, I’ve got to go somewhere else and play,” he said. “I don’t have a choice. I’m not ready to hang the cleats up. My wife feels like I still got it. I feel like I still got it. If my family feels that way, then im going to continue to play. It’s up to the organization to make that decision. I hope they keep me, if not, I had a great career here. I love them, and that will never change.”
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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.