Driver, who is entering the final year of his contract, agreed to an extension with the Packers that will run through the 2012 season. Talks with the team began after last season, according to Driver, and Friday it was made official when he signed the new contract with his wife, son and daughter at his side.
“Now I am going to retire as a Packer,” Driver said. “That is something I have dreamed of for a long time, and it’s here now. My wife and kids, they love it. We went upstairs as a family and signed our extension, so we know that we are going to retire here.
“When it is all said and done and I am done playing, I’ll be wearing green and gold.”
Last season, Driver became the all-time receptions leader in team history (currently has 647), surpassing Sterling Sharpe’s previous record of 595 catches. With 9,050 career yards, Driver enters the 2010 season ranked No. 2 in that category behind only Hall of Famer James Lofton (9,656).
“A great guy wore the number before me, James Lofton, and I’m hoping that I can stay here long enough that I can break his record and one day that jersey will never be worn again, and my name is going to be in the ring like all of the great players before me,” Driver said.
Originally a seventh-round draft pick by the Packers in 1999 out of Alcorn State, Driver has shown no signs of slowing down, registering 1,061 yards and six touchdowns on 70 receptions last season. He has recorded a team-record seven 1,000-yard seasons during his 11-year career, including six straight (2004-09), also a franchise best. With that string of consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns, Driver stands with the Colts’ Reggie Wayne as the only NFL receivers to accomplish that feat the past six seasons.
“My wife, she has always said she never wanted to leave Green Bay,” Driver said. “I have always said I never wanted to leave here. When I got the opportunity in 1999 it was just trying to make it year by year.
“Now that I get to finish my career out here, it’s going to be remarkable. And to be able to one day, hoping that I am going to be in the Packers Hall of Fame, that’s going to be a great thing.”
Driver underwent clean-up surgery on both of his knees this offseason, a move he made to relieve some pain and extend his career.
“I feel so much better,” Driver said. “The aches and pains, you are going to have those because it is training camp, but outside of that my knees feel good. I have been playing well, and that’s what you want. You want to be able to continue to play at a high level.”
When Driver’s contract expires he will be 38 years old, and in the past he has talked about wanting to play until he was 40. While not ruling out the possibility of playing beyond 2012, still performing at a high level when he does retire seems to be just as much of a priority.
“I have always said I wanted to play until I am 40,” Driver said. “If the Lord tells me at 38 when my contract is up to continue playing, I will. But if not, then I retire and I am happy about it.
“You get to a point where it is more mentally than physical. If it’s mentally right now with me at 38, when it gets to that point I am willing to walk away. I am willing to walk away before they have to tell me to walk away. I think that is more respectful to the organization, myself, just to walk away from the game before I embarrass myself.”
Rookie running back Quinn Porter came up with one of the plays of the day on Friday, making a couple of nice cuts to break off what would have been an 80-plus-yard touchdown run during a team period.
“He jumps out, every practice,” McCarthy said. “Everybody’s excited about it. He’s shown some very natural run instincts. There’s a lot of things that are new for him. Special teams will be a big opportunity for him.
“He’s starting to move up the depth chart in a couple of areas there. He’s a young man that so far is taking advantage of his opportunities. It will be exciting to see him under the lights in live action.”
Porter’s long run came when the offense was working in the four-minute situation, so if it had been a game, he actually would have wanted to take a knee near the goal line to run out the clock.
“That was a mental error, it was, “Porter said. “This is the NFL and details are everything. I should have just (taken a knee) at the 1. I wasn’t even thinking. My adrenaline was just rushing and the crowd was pumping me up.”
With sixth-round pick James Starks on the sidelines the first week of camp due to a hamstring injury, Porter has seen increased reps during practice thus far behind Ryan Grant and Brandon Jackson and has made the most of that opportunity. A non-drafted free agent out of Division II Stillman College in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Porter also figures to factor in the competition at both kick returner and punt returner.
“I’m not satisfied yet,” Porter said. “I’m still pushing. I’m still learning these plays, the protections and everything for Coach Edgar Bennett and Coach McCarthy and especially Aaron Rodgers. If you can’t protect the highest-paid player on the field, there is no point in you being in there. I’m still getting my protections down.”
Ready to go
For the rookies on Green Bay’s roster, Saturday’s Family Night scrimmage will be their first opportunity to play under the lights at Lambeau Field.
“It’s going to be a fun experience,” safety Morgan Burnett said. “I’m just going to try to go out there, play hard, fly around, and just have fun with it. It’s a very humbling experience.
“I heard it is going to be a big crowd coming out, so I heard that it is very exciting. That should get you pumped up and get you going. I am looking forward to it.”
Veteran linebacker Brandon Chillar, who will be playing in his third Family Night scrimmage, said the experience remains a unique one.
“What is different is that the fans are there,” Chillar said. “We want to give them a show. It adds a little electricity out there. It is a little bit like practice because we are sitting the same team. We want to hit somebody else. We’ve been hitting these guys.
“But like I said, for the fans and the cheering side, it makes it a little more fun.”
New to the injury list was linebacker Brady Poppinga, who sustained a concussion in Thursday night’s practice. He sat out Friday and McCarthy said he would not participate in Saturday night’s scrimmage.
Safety Will Blackmon (knee) and linebacker Frank Zombo (ankle) also remained out, along with the three PUP players — safety Atari Bigby (ankle), cornerback Al Harris (knee) and Starks. Safety Derrick Martin (ankle) returned to practice after sitting out Thursday.
McCarthy said he would have a better idea on Saturday as to which other players would be held out of the scrimmage. He did not have an update on Bigby, who was scheduled to undergo ankle surgery on Friday in North Carolina.