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Driver in pole position

Packers' last standing reciever catching on as star

By Tom Silverstein

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If there is a wide receiver in the NFL who has worked harder than Donald Driver for all that he has achieved, let him step forward and accept what he deserves.

Right now, however, Driver is the hardest-working performer in the business.

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His rags-to-riches story -- including overcoming an impoverished upbringing, being pigeon-holed as a track athlete and consistently being overlooked as a legitimate go-to receiver -- is well-documented. But well into his seventh season, someone with Pro Bowl credentials shouldn't have to work this hard:

The last time he scored a touchdown -- one of three this season -- he had to make a one-handed diving catch in the back corner of the end zone against Minnesota.

He ranks ninth among the NFL's top 20 receivers with a respectable 13.9-yard per catch average yet he has just two receptions of 40 or more yards.

He has been the Packers' only legitimate receiving threat for most of the season and will remain so until Robert Ferguson returns fully from a knee injury yet he ranks eighth in the NFL in receptions and yards.

Asked if there was anything else Driver could do for him this season, coach Mike Sherman said Monday, "If he shovels my driveway this winter, that might be the ultimate of everything. There's nothing that Donald Driver hasn't gotten done for me. There's nothing (else) I can say about him."

Driver has 51 receptions for 710 yards and three touchdowns, but those numbers don't necessarily reflect what an oasis he has been in an otherwise drought-afflicted receiver position. With Javon Walker, Ferguson and rookie Terrence Murphy missing a combined 16 games, Driver has had to do a lot of dirty work, most of it over the middle.

Almost anyone can catch 51 passes with Brett Favre throwing him the ball, but Driver has been more than a token outlet. Since Walker went down in the opener, Driver has had just one game in which he failed to catch a pass of at least 20 yards and one game in which he has averaged less than 12 yards per reception.

The only thing he hasn't done is regularly find the end zone, but without him it's unlikely the Packers would have managed as many points as they have.

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"Donald is just steady," offensive coordinator Tom Rossley said. "Since we've been here he's been steady and he's gotten better every year. He's playing some of his best football right now."

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