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Sport Donald Driver talks retirement, Aaron Rodgers and Packers' next move

22:45  14 april  2021
22:45  14 april  2021 Source:   sportingnews.com

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Former Packers receiver Donald Driver remembers the shock felt when Brett Favre announced his retirement on March 4, 2008.

Of course, Favre went on to play for three more seasons with the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings. Perhaps that's why Driver is not taking too much stock in the speculation about Aaron Rodgers' future in Green Bay — one of the leading topics of conversation in the 2021 NFL offseason.

"The only (ones) that know what they are going to do are the Packers and Aaron Rodgers," Driver told Sporting News. "As analysts and outsiders, we want to be able to analyze what is going on. That's what makes us great at what we do. The thing is, we have to understand it's still that individual's choice and that individual's decision.

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"We know that's going be the hiccup," he said. "Aaron is going to be a legend. He's always going to be able to walk into Lambeau Field or wherever he may go, and he's a Hall of Famer. We know that, but it's his decision."

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Driver announced his partnership with Master Lock's "Community Champions" program Wednesday as part of his continued charity work within the Green Bay community.

Driver is Green Bay's all-time leader with 10,137 receiving yards. He was a seventh-round pick in the 1999 NFL Draft who emerged as a favorite target for Favre and Rodgers, and he spent all of his 14 seasons with the Packers.

Driver is quick to point out that every retirement story has different wrinkles. He was part of a receiving corps that featured Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones during Green Bay's Super Bowl 45 run after the 2010 season.

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Jennings left for Minnesota after the 2012 season, and Driver had a choice. Driver, however, made a personal decision that allowed Nelson, Cobb and Jones to stay in Green Bay longer. He still received offers to play, including one with NFC North rival Minnesota.

"I knew if I stayed longed enough, then those guys would have had to go somewhere else and play like we've seen them all do (later)," Driver said. "It was easy for me to walk away knowing they were good friends of mine and that allowed them to play the game they wanted to in Green Bay. I knew that if I walked away, then I would have a better platform to do other things."

Driver had a 90-yard touchdown reception in Favre's last game with the Packers — a 23-20 loss to the Giants in the NFC championship game on Jan. 20, 2008. He watched the NFC championship game last season — a 31-26 loss to Tampa Bay at Lambeau Field — and has heard similar rumblings about Rodgers' future with the franchise ever since.

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Rodgers added to that when he said, "A lot of guys' futures, they're uncertain, myself included," after the loss to the Buccaneers.

Driver pointed to the 2021 NFL Draft and free agency as factors that could help change the narrative around Rodgers, 37, who has spent 16 seasons in Green Bay. The Packers ignited speculation about how much longer Rodgers would be in Green Bay after taking quarterback Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.

"I think we all know what the No. 1 position was we all talked about last year," Driver said. "They needed a receiver. Marquez (Valdes-Scantling) stepped up last year. (Allen) Lazard stepped up. Those guys stepped up and played, but you have to take the pressure off Davante (Adams). You have to find a good defensive end and some linebackers that can fill on the defensive side and make your pick from there."

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Green Bay also has been a nonfactor in free agency, but Driver believes the Packers could still make additions after the draft.

"(Green Bay) has never went out in free agency and grabbed a lot of great players," Driver said. "Maybe they need to do that as well. Reach out to free-agent guys and bring them in and help Aaron get to where he wants to get to. That's everybody — get back to the Super Bowl."

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From there, Driver knows the story could change after the 2021 season. He just knows one part of the story is not going to change.

"Aaron is always going to go down as one of the greatest Green Bay Packers in history, but everyone has to make their choice about where they want to go," Driver said.

Driver spoke to Sporting News through his partnership with Master Lock, a Wisconsin-based company that uses its "Community Champions" program to spotlight those who make a difference in their community. Driver was renowned for his charitable efforts during his time with the Packers, and that work continues.

"This is a great opportunity to impact the role models that are making a complete difference," Driver said. "Those ones that are hid behind the walls and don't get the exposure they need to get, well, Master Lock is giving them that opportunity. We get to honor people in the community who get overlooked every single day."

For more, visit www.masterlock.com to tell the story of a Community Champion and upload their photo. Winners could receive up to $5,000 in cash prizes.

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