Ageless Green Bay Packers receiver Donald Driver isn’t going anywhere, even though the roster is loaded with younger talent.
Driver, 36, still looks good, feels good, is in tip-top shape and has no plans to relinquish his starting job.
“I think he’s had a good camp, I really do,” said Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers on Tuesday.
“It’s typical Donald. He’s going to run his routes well, he’s going to catch the ball and he’s going to make some plays when he gets in game situations.”
Driver has thrived on silencing his doubters, and he is hoping this year is no different.
“It’s been like that all my life,” Driver said. “As a child growing up, people tell me I can’t do this, I can’t do that. I prove people wrong.”
His string of six consecutive 1,000-yard seasons ended last year when he caught 51 passes for 565 yards. Some believe it’s a sign his career is nearing an end. To Driver, that kind of talk will only serve as motivation.
“It’s been the talk since I got here in ’99 and the talk continues in 2011,” Driver said. “I don’t think it’s going to ever change.”
Driver is realistic enough to know he can’t play forever. He is humble enough to accept a smaller role in the offense, if asked. He even would settle for a nonstarting position if that’s what the Packers wanted.
“If it got to that point where they made a decision to say, ‘Hey Donald, we’re not going to start you,’ I’m OK with it,” Driver said. “It’s not going to be the first time I haven’t started a game.”
But that time hasn’t arrived, according to Driver. He hasn’t lost a step or hit the proverbial wall.
“I said I want to play until I’m 40,” Driver said. “Will that day come? I hope. If not, I’m willing to know when it’s over, it’s over. And right now for me it’s not over. It’s been a proven fact I’m still playing at a high level. I’m competing at a high level.”
Driver suffered a high ankle sprain in the Super Bowl and missed the second half of the championship game. He normally works out fiendishly in the offseason but was forced to rest.
“The lockout thing kind of saved me because I didn’t have to rush back,” he said.
“It gave me an opportunity to just let everything heal on its own and let it take its course. I’m finally healthy and feel good.”
But with the Packers boasting so many weapons on offense, including the return of tight end Jermichael Finley from an injury and the addition of rookie wideout Randall Cobb, can Driver continue to find contentment in Green Bay?
“I’m one of the unselfish guys,” Driver said. “I’ve always been that way and that will never change. I never care who gets the ball, as long as we win the games. That’s all that matters to me.”
He will gladly settle for fewer receiving yards again if it leads to another championship.
“I don’t care,” he said. “I won a Super Bowl. I have that title. I have that ring. I’m OK with that.”
Driver owns the record for most receptions (698) in Packers history and is just 42 yards shy of James Lofton’s franchise mark for receiving yards.
Beyond statistics, Driver’s veteran leadership has been invaluable.
“He’s not a guy that says too much,” receiver James Jones said. “He just goes out there and does his job. He works hard, never complains, just how he carries himself. When you’re a young guy coming in you can’t do anything but follow that.”
Driver, who is entering his 13th season, wants to end his NFL career the same way he started it.
“The humble guy that walked in here in ’99, laughing and joking and had a smile on his face and not mad at the world for anything, that’s the same way I want to go out,” Driver said. “The same happy-go-lucky person.”
Mike Vandermause is the sports editor of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.