Donald Driver: Latest Packer to Take Issue with Management
Just days after Packers receiver Donald Driver failed to show up for voluntary OTA sessions because of a contract dispute, the Packers are reportedly in talks with his agent.
The Wisconsin State Journal reported Thursday that Driver had been wanting to rework his contract for several years, but the Packers have not complied. After Driver missed the voluntary OTA session, the Packers started preliminary discussions with Driver's agent, according to the Green Bay Press Gazette.
The 34 year-old has two years remaining on his current contract and is the latest player to express a beef with Packers management.
Safety Nick Collins has already gone public with his desire for a new contract after a Pro-Bowl season in 2008. Unlike Driver, who said he plans to attend all mandatory team functions, Collins has indicated he may hold out until he gets a new deal.
While wide receiver Greg Jennings has not indicated that he will hold out or miss any voluntary workouts, you have to wonder when General Manager Ted Thompson will start contract discussions with him. Jennings' contract is set to expire next year, and if he matches or exceeds his production of the last three seasons, Jennings will be poised to break the bank in free agency.
Jennings has shown that he has the talent to become the NFL's next star-receiver, with his dynamic run-after-catch talent, and his ability to stretch the defense as a deep threat. It would only make sense for the Packers to lock him up to a long-term deal before his value increases.
The Packers narrowly avoided a messy situation last summer with running back Ryan Grant, who after a breakout year in 2007, missed the beginning of training camp before finally working out a new contract.
Grant's situation could have gotten much worse had his hold-out dragged on into the start of the season, but his week-long absence from training camp might have played a part in him injuring his hamstring when he finally did report. Grant then got off to a slow start in 2008, making many wonder if his 2007 campaign was just an aberration, or if his hold-out and subsequent hamstring injury were to blame.
Regardless of how the situations with Driver, Jennings, and Collins unfold, Packers management can ill-afford another tiff with a star player. Last summer's bitter divorce with quarterback Brett Favre had many fans, and maybe some players, reeling.
The argument will rage on for years over who was at fault for the summer-long drama that captivated the sports world and sent ESPN ratings through the roof. But the bottom line is that the Packers ended up trading their most beloved player, possibly of all time, and that didn't generally sit well with fans, not to mention the message it sent to current players. If Favre could be forced out of Green Bay, what does that mean for other veterans nearing the end of their career?
Although the intense emotions of the situation have subsided, the icy relationship between Thompson and Favre doesn't exactly make for good public relations. Engaging in a stand-off with another fan-favorite in Driver will only make things worse.
In addition to the contract disputes, there is speculation that linebacker Aaron Kampman is unhappy with the team's switch to the 3-4 defense. Kampman has yet to make any public comments on the move, fueling speculation of his discontent.
Head coach Mike McCarthy hinted that Kampman may not be overly thrilled with the move, but was quick to say that Kampman is a professional and will get on board.
The switch to the 3-4 will move Kampman from defensive end to linebacker, where he will rush the passer from an upright position, versus the three-quarter stance.
While football is the ultimate team sport, and nothing is more irritating than when athletes complain about not making enough money, the Packers are still walking a thin line.
Many professional athletes make more money than they deserve, but organizations are quick to dish out the "it's a business" excuse whenever they have to cut a star player or make any other unpopular decision, so shouldn't players be able to make the same claim?
If a player who has produced more than other players of his position who are making more money, isn't only fair that he ask for fair market value? It is a business after all.
Thompson claims that he is not a huge player in free agency because he wants to save money to give current players new contracts. That approach sounds good in theory, but then why all the hesitancy when stars like Grant, Collins, Jennings, and Driver are due for new contracts? Wasn't that ridiculous amount of cap space reserved for them?
The Packers have a long way to go in rebuilding their image after last summer's falling-out with Favre, but they can start by treating the current players fairly and avoiding more player vs. management disputes in the future.
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