Driver fails physical, sits out due to nagging shoulder injury
By LORI NICKELmailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted: July 28, 2007
Green Bay - The first day of training camp is usually filled with optimism and hope. And it is usually the only day of camp when everyone is in attendance because no one has fallen yet due to injury.
So it was shocking, then, to see one of the most valuable and reliable players in a Green Bay Packers uniform on the sideline Saturday because he failed his physical exam.
Wide receiver Donald Driver watched practice at Ray Nitschke Field with a nagging right shoulder injury that he has had for more than seven months. He did not pass his physical Friday because he is lacking arm strength and therefore has been placed on the physically unable to perform list.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy could not yet say when Driver might be able to return.
"He has a re-occurring injury with the shoulder that he hurt last year, so, he will be day-to-day with the shoulder," McCarthy said.
However, the second-year Packers coach didn't seem alarmed about Driver's lingering injury.
"I'm not concerned," McCarthy said. "Like all of us (know), Donald will keep himself in excellent shape year round. It's just something Donald's coming into camp with. So, we're just being cautious with it."
Driver does not believe the shoulder will require surgery, but it was clear something was wrong when team physician Patrick McKenzie tested Driver by having him put his arms straight out. The doctor would push up and down on Driver's arms, and Driver's shoulder wasn't strong enough to provide much resistance.
Driver tried to convince McKenzie he was OK to play, that it wouldn't stop him from playing and catching.
"There's nothing I can do about it," Driver said. "I may feel like I can go but I have to pass that physical."
Driver first injured the shoulder in Week 14 on Dec. 10 at San Francisco but returned to the game.
He then returned for practice the following week for the most part before being forced to miss practice the final two weeks of the season. Still, he managed to start every game.
"I didn't want to take any time off to get ready to play (the next week)," Driver said. "I had to play. You have to play games regardless of the situation."
He led the Packers with 92 catches for 1,295 yards last season. Even playing through a sprained ankle he suffered in Week 10, the offense practically ran through Driver's sure hands, as he was on the field for 86% of the offensive plays.
After the season, Driver didn't do anything about the shoulder in the winter months. All he did was maintain his strict workout regimen.
The 32-year-old entering his ninth season then participated in the May minicamps as if nothing was wrong, for two reasons, he said. First, he wants to keep his job as the Packers' No. 1 receiver.
"I have a bunch of young receivers. It's going to be week in and week out, we're all competing for a job," Driver said. "I'm not ready to give mine up. In the off-season, that's what I do. Once the season is over, I go back to work. Once this season is over, I'm going to go back to work again. I'm not going to take any time off regardless of the situation."
Second, he wants to set an example for a receiving group that has several young players.
"My guys are looking for me to be out there," Driver said. "Robert Ferguson said it today. 'It just seems like it's not right if you're not out there.' I have to get back out there not just for him but the rest of the receiving group, because if I'm out there they understand it's time to win. Those guys basically feed off me."
Driver admits he might have aggravated the shoulder some in the off-season workouts. He missed the last two organized team activities that were open to the media in June, but he hoped the injury would go away on its own.
"It's been one of those things," Driver said. "I've been lifting weights and working out all off-season long. Maybe it got to a point where I started tweaking it a little bit. I started feeling pain again. Now it's all about treatment, hoping I can be out there in a couple days.
"When you're young your body heals faster; when you're old it doesn't. The biggest thing for me was that I wanted to go out there and continue working out."
If the injury were to linger into the season, the Packers could be in deep trouble. Driver has missed just four starts in the last seven seasons and has been Green Bay's leading receiver four of the last five years.