Losing Ryan Grant and Jermichael Finley has been debilitating to the Green Bay Packers offense this season. But the loss of Donald Driver this week is just ... different.
Driver has already been ruled out for Sunday's game against the one-win Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field. And the Packers' other starting wide receiver, Greg Jennings, knows something is going to be askew.
"Number one, you can't replace that guy, I'm sorry," said fellow wide receiver Greg Jennings. "With all the numbers he's put up in his career and what he's mean to this team, you can't replace a guy like that."
The franchise's all-time leader in receptions with 675, Driver has always made his presence felt. And even though wide receiver is one of the deeper positions on the team, Driver will still be missed.
Driver may not have been setting the NFL on fire this season even when he's been healthy, but that's beside the point. He's been a constant, almost calming presence because he's always been there week in, week out throughout the course of his 12-year career.
"It will be a different feel," said Jennings. "Just the fact that, he's always been there. Every time you look to your left or your right, you see No. 80. With him being gone, that's huge obviously."
Despite being limited the past two weeks by a quad injury that snapped his streak of consecutive games with at least one reception at 133 games (139 including playoffs), Driver is still the second-leading receiver for the Packers this season in receptions with 28 for 307 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Missing Sunday's game is also delaying Driver's chase to become the franchise's all-time leader in receiving yards. He's currently second on the list with 9,357 yards. James Lofton, who's calling Sunday's game for the Westwood One national radio broadcast, is No. 1 with 9,656 yards.
So with all these records, all these accolades, where do the Packers turn now without the steadying influence of Driver?
"You account for the fact that you have guys that are able to step up and fill the void," said Jennings, "and that's what we have with our Jordy Nelsons and James Joneses and Brett Swains."
When pressed, Jennings also included himself as part of the equation and said he'll do everything in his will to hold up his end of the bargain.
For Jordy Nelson, specifically, the loss of the Driver will have further-reaching consequences. Not only will he have a more prominent role on offense, but he could be pulling double-duty on kick returns with Pat Lee out for Sunday as well.
But it's starting to become old-hat for the Packers receivers, who've already had to overcome the loss of Finley and have seen passes spread around in his absence. According to Nelson, they've all been trying to take it up and extra notch with all the injuries.
"I think we've been thinking that for a while, ever since Jermichael went down, even when Ryan, R.G. went down," said Nelson. "It's just a continued thing this year with the Packers is people having to step up. So obviously we know we're going to get more plays. We experienced that last week. He played some but was out early. It's just I think we'll be comfortable out there, we just got to go play our game."
Unlike the injuries to Finley and Grant, however, Driver won't be out for the entire season. It's only another week in which the Packers won't have his services.
By sitting out this week and then having the bye next week, Driver is getting and extra week of rest such that he can contribute to the stretch run of the season.
"When Donald Driver misses practice, that’s a concern because he hasn’t missed practice," said head coach Mike McCarthy. "And now that he is going to miss games, that obviously tells you the significance of his injury. Talking to Donald, he thinks he’ll be ready to go for Minnesota, so that’s what we’re shooting for."
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