GREEN BAY – A month ago, Donald Driver was leaning toward playing in 2013, despite a disappointingly limited role during what was likely his final season with the Green Bay Packers.
But on Thursday, Mike Garafolo of USA Today reported that Driver is now leaning toward retirement, according to a person informed of Driver's thinking on the matter. The person told Garafolo that an announcement could come as soon as next week.
Driver is the Packers’ all-time leading receiver, having caught 743 passes for yards 10,137, along with 61 touchdowns. But he caught only eight passes for 77 yards and two touchdowns this season and was a healthy scratch for one of the team’s two playoff games. In the team’s NFC Divisional Playoff loss at San Francisco, he played only a few snaps on special teams.
The day after the loss, Driver told reporters as he cleaned out his locker, I don’t know what’s going to happen. I feel like I can still play. I think I’ve proven that. I think I’m just going to see what’s out there for me and if teams call and want me to come then I’ve got to make that decision. If not, if the Packers want me back, then I’ll come back. So at this point it may not work here, but it may work somewhere else.”
Driver, who accepted a pay cut before the season, signed a one-year deal with the team after originally being under contract for two seasons. He will be an unrestricted free agent in March.
“It was very difficult,” Driver said of his limited role. “It was tough and frustrating all at the same time but I think the thing for me is that I was able handle it in a certain way. I think you can take the negative out of it or the positive. I decided to take the high road and take the positive side of it, and it’s not what you want but that’s the way the business is, and you have to deal with it.”
On Dec. 23, Driver was asked about his future.
“I don’t know what to say. It’s hard to say how I’m feeling,” he replied. “It’s going to come to an end. Who knows when it’s going to be. I’ve got (at least) one playoff game at home, in front of the home crowd. I’m hoping for the best. That’s what I have to hope for.”
Asked if he and his wife, Betina, have talked about their plans for next season, Driver replied, “We’ve talked about it. We just haven’t made a final decision. I think the thing for us is, I don’t feel like I can’t play. So you want to continue to play as long as you can.”
Asked if he’s then leaning toward playing next season, Driver replied, “Of course. That’s always been my goal.”
Asked if he was confident the fans would still love him even if he played in 2013 with another team, Driver replied, “I don’t know. I don’t know. The biggest thing for me is I have to cross that road. We’re just happy to be in the playoffs. I’m glad the season went the way it went. Early on, the first five weeks, it wasn’t going as good. I think now, guys are coming in, guys are making plays that should be making plays, and that’s what it’s all about.”
Perhaps some personal difficulties are influencing Driver’s thought process. Early Thursday morning, Driver Tweeted that his father is battling lung cancer, his brother just lost his wife and that he also had an uncle and grandparents on both sides of his family die in the past month.
My dad as he fight lung cancer, my brother as he fight the loss of his wife, my uncle, grandparents on both mom and dad side. Crazy Month— Donald Driver (@Donald_Driver80) January 24, 2013
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There are no games scheduled for today.