Veteran receiver's future remains up in the air
Given the opportunity to clarify Donald Driver’s future with the team, both Ted Thompson and Mike McCarthy chose to say nothing about the veteran receiver. “I would never speculate on something like that,” Thompson told local reporters over the weekend. “He’s dancing right now. Doing good, too.” Added McCarthy, “No reason to speculate on that. I’m just going to follow Ted’s answer to the question.” Perhaps I’m reading too much into what was said, or in this case wasn’t said, but I have a feeling that Driver’s illustrious career with the Green Bay Packers is coming to an end.
Here’s what McCarthy said on the same subject five weeks ago at the owner’s meetings: “Donald’s still on our roster. I thought Donald, the second half of the season, he played very well. His role, as far as opportunities, was not as high as it’s been in the past, but I thought Donald was very consistent down the stretch. I thought he played well in the playoff game.” Not exactly a commitment to bringing Driver back, but certainly more encouraging than what was said a few days ago.
The guess here is that Thompson and McCarthy decided to move on from Driver between then and now, but don’t want to make an announcement while the three-time Pro Bowler is still competing on Dancing With The Stars. Releasing him at this time would make a big story that much bigger, and more importantly, it would serve as an unwelcome distraction to Driver. It would also be embarrassing. It’s one thing to lose your job while Packer Nation watches; it’s quite another to have it happen with the whole world watching (or at least however many people tune in to DWTS).
I expect the Packers to officially release Driver sometime after DWTS ends and before the first minicamp in June. That would avoid causing distraction and embarrassment and also give one of the greatest players in franchise history plenty of time to find another team. Of course, that might be easier said than done. I can’t imagine there will be much of a market for a 37-year-old wide receiver who has clearly lost more than a step over the past few years.
Maybe someone with a history with Driver would sign him to add veteran leadership – Cleveland President Mike Holmgren, Seattle GM John Schneider, Oakland GM Reggie McKenize and Miami head coach Joe Philbin come to mind – but more than likely Driver will be forced to call it a career. If that’s the case, the former seventh-round pick from Alcorn State star would enter into retirement with 735 receptions, 10,060 yards and 59 touchdowns. The first two numbers are the best in franchise history. Of course, I could be pulling a “Dewey Beats Truman” here. No announcement has been made, and there’s always a chance Driver could return. After all, he’s been beating the odds for years.