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Not To Be Forgotten


At first, he couldn't hear the question. With hundreds of fans swarming Donald Driver and four of his teammates at the Packers Partners reception Friday, July 26, outside the Packer Hall of Fame, the sound of his fan's question drifted upward from the speakers instead of outward.

So she repeated it into the microphone: "Donald, are you going to be the No. 3 receiver this year?"

"The number-what?" Driver replied, but this time he'd heard her just fine.

It's been the story of Driver's offseason. Every day he comes out to practice, works hard, leads the receivers through drills, and yet even his biggest fans only think to ask, 'Can you be No. 3?'

Such a question would assume, of course, that second-year player Robert Ferguson will hold onto the No. 2 spot that's his to lose, and that rookie Javon Walker may come along quickly, but not quickly enough, to demote a veteran like Driver all the way back to No. 4.

What such a question forgets however is that both Ferguson and Walker are seeking their first regulation NFL catch, while Driver has 37 of them, three for touchdowns. It also fails to notice that Driver has been one of the players to set a tone of excellence for this training camp.

"He comes to work every day, blue-collar guy," said offensive coordinator Tom Rossley. "You watch which receiver takes it all the way to the goal line after each catch, that's Donald. If another receiver catches the ball, who's the guy sprinting over there trying to get a block, that's Donald.

"He can kind of set a standard for those other guys. We don't have really old receivers, we've got young receivers and Donald's one of the guys right now that's setting a standard . . . Some of those other guys are talented, they just have to do it that way."

Trying to emulate Driver isn't always easy. In the present NFL, there aren't a lot of players who would rather risk being a No. 4 receiver on one team and turn away a chance to be a significant contributor on another, but that's what Driver did when he decided to stay in Green Bay this season rather than escape to Kansas City, where the Chiefs were reportedly offering him $3 million over three years.

But those are Driver's values. He'd rather be a forgotten man on a winning team, than the other way around.

"We have some great (receivers on this team)," Driver said. "Whatever my role is, if I'm third or fourth this season then let it be, I'm just trying to play ball. I just want to have fun, I'm ready to win the Super Bowl . . . I don't need all the hype, it's not (anything) I look for."

He's not looking for the bench either. Make no mistake about it, Driver is thirsting to compete, to contribute. He wants to get on the field just as badly as the next guy, and he's going to work just as hard to get there, no matter if there are three guys ahead of him or zero.

"Donald Driver is the same today as he was yesterday and the day before," GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman said. "He gives you everything he has. He's been impressive, I thought, last year in practice. If we're looking for a big catch, Donald always seems to come up to make that catch . . . I don't see him doing anything different (this season), that's who Donald is."

What Driver is as well is the lightest receiver on the team at 188 pounds, up slightly from a year ago when he was listed at 185. While Walker is the bulkiest of the wideouts at 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, the 6-0 Driver is even easier on the scales than 5-11 Terry Glenn, who plays at 195 pounds.

Last season, Driver missed three weeks with a quadriceps contusion and in 2000 he was forced to the sidelines with a sore hip. Whether either of those injuries were related to his lean frame, is up for debate, but receivers coach Ray Sherman said he has no fears about Driver's size, and the lanky receiver agrees.

"It just depends on the way the guy hits you," Driver said. "If you get a big hit put on you, not too many guys are going to get up from that, I don't care how big you are."

And Driver certainly won't have to wait for someone ahead of him to get injured to get his chance. For the moment at least, the No. 2 job is still there to be won.

"Until we start getting close to that first game, it's open," Ray Sherman said. "Right now, because we have so many young guys, it's just really learning the offense and going out and playing. As we get closer to preseason games and guys get a chance to be in the ballgame, we'll see from that."

Then it won't be a matter of how big Driver is, just how big he plays.

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