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Driver's Toughness and Durability Second to None


There may be faster, stronger and more publicized wide receivers than Donald Driver, but you'd be hard pressed to find anyone tougher. There also may not be anyone more relentless, hard-nosed and underrated at his position in the NFL.

Say what you want about Driver, but know this: if there's a game on Sunday, you can count on number 80 making the tough catches over the middle and serving as a reliable target for Brett Favre.

Despite the lack of headlines, Driver has been putting his stamp on the Packers' record books all season long and Sunday's game versus the Seattle Seahawks was no different.

Driver caught a pass in a 64th consecutive game, which is the second-longest in team history behind Sterling Sharpe's 103 (1988-94).

He also became only the fourth Packers player ever with an 85-reception season, joining Sterling Sharpe (1989, 1992-94), Robert Brooks (1995) and Javon Walker (2004). The seventh round choice out of Alcorn State also finished with 86 catches and 1221 receiving yards on the season, both career highs.

Without a doubt, Driver has quietly put up some great numbers for the Green and Gold, but his calling card should be "takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin.'"

To get an idea of his toughness, you don't need to look any further than the second quarter when the 6-0, 190 pound Driver took a vicious hit in an attempt to catch a Favre rocket. Though he didn't catch the ball, Driver laid out and -- like he has done so many times in the past -- put his body on the line. He got the wind knocked out of him, but Driver eventually got up and returned to the game.

It's that display of durability that the Packers have relied on all season long. Javon Walker has been out since his torn ACL that he suffered in the opening game against Detroit, rookie Terrence Murphy has been out since the week four game versus Carolina, and Robert Ferguson has also miss extended time as well.

Driver said it was up to him to carry the load once his teammates went down with their injuries.

"Once Javon, Robert, and 'T Murph' went down, I just felt like I had to put the game on my shoulders," Driver said. "Every game that I stepped out there, I just wanted to play. And I wanted to play well."

Playing well hasn't been a problem for Driver, and despite enduring a difficult season as a team, his outlook remained positive after Sunday's 23-17 victory.

"2005 was over Christmas Day," Driver explained. "This was the start of a new season. It started well. Guys went out and performed and played to their potential."

Despite his grittiness and hard work, Driver is sometimes considered nothing more than a number two receiver, something that astonishes at least one teammate.

"Donald's always been a number one receiver," running back Tony Fisher said. "He's a great player. He comes in and works hard, day in and day out. Javon is a great player for us, too, but Donald's just as good."

Flattering words to be sure, but Driver doesn't mind if they go unsaid.

"I love criticism," Driver said. "If people keep telling me that I'm not a number one receiver in the National Football League, I'm just going to keep proving them wrong. Keep saying I'm bad, and I'm going to keep proving you wrong."

Fisher added that in addition to his physical skills as a wide receiver, Driver brings much more to the table in the character department.

"He's a terrific leader," Fisher explained. "How many guys take the hits, come across the middle and do all the stuff he does? He just gets up laughing and joking and getting everyone involved."

Driver admits that the concept of getting everyone involved once again next season can make the wide receiver position a strong point for the Packers.

"My biggest thing is we can get Javon back, T Murphy, Ferg, Rod Gardner and Chatman," Driver said. "We can have the best tandem -- I don't even know what you call it. We've got six good receivers and we can just go out there and just open up the offense.

"Maybe we'll start doing the run and shoot like the Houston Oilers did back in the days -- open up with five wides. I don't know if that'll happen but we can try."

Driver has obviously spent his entire career catching passes from Favre, and the question of the day was whether Favre will be back. Although Driver isn't sure what the answer to that question is, he knows that, health-wise, those two can once again create havoc for opposing defenses.

"I felt good," Driver said. "I think Brett felt that way, too. He kept trusting me and I keep trusting myself."

Driver added with a wink, "Hopefully he comes back next year, and we can make more plays like we did today."

And prove that no combination is grittier or tougher than those two.

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