Skip to main content

Lee's Production Picking Up


Like all of the players and coaches, tight end Donald Lee is disappointed with where the Packers are in the standings, but individually he is in the midst of his most productive stretch of the season.

In the last four games, Lee has 14 receptions for 126 yards and three touchdowns, including a career-high six catches against the Bears in Week 11. He caught touchdown passes vs. Chicago, Carolina and Houston, the first time in Lee's six-year career that he found the end zone in three of four games, and he currently ranks third on the team with 37 receptions.

"I just try to be the same guy every game," Lee said. "I just go out there and work hard and try to run great routes and make plays. Whenever the ball is thrown my way, I just do my best to make a play. I've just been very fortunate that things have been going my way these last few games."

Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin said Lee's increased presence of late in Green Bay's passing game has been due to a combination of factors.

"I think sometimes the call and the coverage sometimes dictate where he finds himself in the progression," Philbin said. "It may seem like he is not a focus of the game plan or he hasn't gotten the ball an awful lot, but that is not necessarily really the case.

"We certainly are striving for balance in our passing game. I think some of it is just a function of being in the right spot at the right time and then making the plays that present themselves during the course of a ballgame. He's done a little bit of both."

Lee ranks second on the team with five touchdown catches this season, behind only wide receiver Greg Jennings (7). That ties him for third among NFL tight ends, trailing only perennial Pro Bowlers Tony Gonzalez (7) of the Chiefs and Antonio Gates (6) of the Chargers.

With his five scores this season and six in '07, Lee ranks fourth in the league over that span behind only Gates and Colts TE Dallas Clark (15) and Gonzalez (12).

"That's a lot of touchdowns in almost two complete seasons, so that says a lot about his value to the offense," Philbin said. "You put the ball in the end zone 11 times, you're an important part of what we are doing."

Lee signed with the Packers in 2005 after being waived by the Miami Dolphins just prior to the start of the season. He had played in all 32 games with the Dolphins (2004-05) after being selected in the fifth round of the 2003 NFL Draft out of Mississippi State.

Lee posted career highs in every category in his first season in Green Bay, catching 33 passes for 294 yards and two touchdowns in 15 games. His numbers dipped in '06, Head Coach Mike McCarthy's first season at the helm, as he posted just 10 receptions for 150 yards.

"He's a guy that has gotten better and better and better once he got acclimated to Coach McCarthy's system," Philbin said. "It took him that first year probably to get his feet wet. Certainly the last two years you've got to really be impressed with what he has done, and we're certainly pleased about him."

Lee bounced back last season with 48 catches for 575 yards (12.0 avg.) and six touchdowns, including four games with 65-plus yards receiving.

Coming off a career year like that, Lee said his goal was to build on those numbers in '08, but he didn't get off to a fast start this season as he posted 10 or fewer receiving yards in three of the first six games and didn't score his first touchdown until Week 5 vs. Atlanta.

"I was planning on having a breakout year and maybe even having a shot at the Pro Bowl, but I started kind of slow," Lee said. "I was a little disappointed that the ball wasn't coming my way, but I am a team player and I try not to complain about anything.

{sportsad300}"I just try and concentrate on things I can control. My attitude and effort, I can control that, so I make sure that is good so I can capitalize when the ball does come my way. It's a proven fact that if you're not getting better, you are getting worse. Every day I practice like the game is on the line, and I think that's the only way you get better."

Lee said winning the final three games is his primary focus as the Packers look to snap a three-game losing streak that has made the playoffs a remote possibility. Even though Green Bay would need to win out just to finish .500, he views the tail end of the season as a springboard for 2009.

"I was here in 2006 when we turned it on at the end (four-game winning streak to finish the season) and we felt like we could play with anybody," Lee said. "We came back the next year and had a great season. I don't see why we can't do that again and make it to the playoffs next season."

With three games remaining, Lee needs just three more catches for 40 on the season, which would make him the first Packers tight end to post back-to-back 40-catch seasons since Jackie Harris accomplished the feat in 1992-93.

"Wow, I didn't even know that," Lee said. "That would be a good accomplishment. It would make me feel good, but nothing makes you feel better than winning. If we can win these last three games and I could get three catches, I would be very happy and excited.

"I really don't keep up with stats. I just play the game to win. The most important thing, I just really want to finish the season strong and win these last three games."

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.