GREEN BAY – Donald Driver wants to be a Packer for life. Aaron Rodgers wants to be a Packer for life.
Brett Favre wanted to be a Packer for life.
I suspect anyone who has ever played for the Packers – at some point – wants or wanted to be a Packer for life. In the context of “life” being defined as the balance of a player’s NFL career even the loathsome Jim McMahon wanted to be a Packer for life.
For McMahon, it was about collecting a paycheck, getting a Super Bowl ring and hitching a ride to the White House so he could flash President Clinton with the Bears’ jersey cleverly hid beneath the green and gold.
For Favre, it was much the same reason as Driver and Rodgers: He loved playing for the Green Bay Packers. He loved the fans. He loved the small-town feel. He loved the ability to go deer hunting, if only for a few hours, the day before a home game.
Favre loved the Packers and vice-versa.
I recall interviewing Brett for an article in the Packers’ Yearbook. It was circa 2003, before Irvin Favre’s death, before Mike Sherman’s departure, before Aaron Rodgers’ arrival, before the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings and all the rest.
Brett and I were standing on Lambeau Field near the tunnel to the home team’s locker room. It was a sunny early summer day, much like any of the recent days in Green Bay, with the team’s OTA’s in full swing.
Favre scanned the empty stadium, soaking up the sun along with everything that is wonderful about the place, and he said, “I couldn’t imagine ever playing for another team.”
Favre pointed to the tunnel and wondered aloud, “Could you see me come running out the tunnel, let’s say, in San Diego playing for the Chargers? Could you see me in a Raiders’ uniform? Could you picture me wearing a Cardinals’ uniform?
He didn’t wait for a reply.
“Me neither,” he said, wrinkling his nose.
Back then, the likelihood of Favre suiting up for any other NFL team seemed somewhere between none and non-existent.
Last week, Driver professed his love of the Packers in word and deed. He said so and he followed it up with agreeing to take a pay cut. The contract restructuring doesn’t guarantee Driver a roster spot. It merely insures the opportunity to earn one.
For Driver’s sake, and his fans’ sake, I hope he retires a Packer.
The sentiment for Rodgers is the same. However, the receiver and the quarterback are in different stages of their career.
Driver is still charming and capable, but he also is near the end.
Rodgers, equally captivating in his own way, seems on the verge of sustained greatness. Rodgers says he wants to be a Packer for life, and his fans shake with delight.
They can’t imagine Rodgers throwing touchdowns for another NFL team like they couldn’t imagine Favre doing likewise.
Look at Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints. In 2009, Brees led them victory in the Super Bowl. He was the king of the Big Easy. Brees wasn’t the Saints’ quarterback. He was the Saints, period.
Now, Brees and the Saints are locked in a difficult contract negotiation. Common sense suggests each has too much to lose to blow it up. Then again, when has common sense dictated all the action in the NFL?
Surely, it warms Packers’ fans hearts to hear Driver and Rodgers espouse their enduring love of the team. That’s because the thought of them playing elsewhere is painful, just as it Favre’s exit hurt.
Sadly, with one retired (Favre) and two to go (Driver and Rodgers), the reality of “life” in the NFL suggests McMahon likely will be the only one of the four to retire as a member of the Green Bay Packers.
Here is a well-intentioned though unsolicited suggestion: Enjoy Driver and Rodgers for as long as the Packers have them. Just try not to be crushed if the definition of “life” in this context shifts between now and then.
Chris Havel is a Packers News expert and national best-selling author. His latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’ Player Autograph Parties the evening before home games.