Can Driver pull a Jerry Rice?

Green Bay Packers’ receiver Donald Driver says he wants to play until he’s 40.

This nugget came out when Driver was talking about having his knees scoped, last week. I didn’t pay much attention at the time because one player or another seems to be getting a knee scope all the time.

Driver had a trapped nerve in one knee and no flexibility in the other. Things were cleaned up in January. And now?

“I feel so good now,” said Driver. “The trainers said, ‘you look 25 again.’ I had the scope because I want to play until I’m 40. I wanted to extend my career another 5 years.”

That’s a hell of a goal.

Driver’s production dropped off towards the end of last season and it’s possible part of that could be attributed to his knees. Sure, he still caught 70 balls for 1,061 yards and six touchdowns, which has been consistent with his recent production, but how much longer can that continue?

When I looked for receivers who played until they were 40, I came up largely empty.

Jerry Rice, the best to ever play the position, played until he was 42. He was relatively productive until his final season, when he split time between Oakland and Seattle and caught only 30 balls for 429 yards. I think it’s safe to say Donald Driver is no Jerry Rice.

If you take a look at some other recent greats, none of them made it until 40.

Tim Brown lasted until 38 when he finished a great career with a miserable year in Tampa Bay (24 receptions, 200 yards).

Cris Carter played until 37. Like Brown, hung around one year too long, finishing as a Miami Dolphin, where he caught eight balls for 66 yards.

James Lofton went until he was 37 and finished with 14 receptions and 183 yards while splitting time between the Rams and Philadelphia in his final season.

Art Monk? Played until he was 38 and finished with 6 receptions and 114 yards in Philadelphia.

Here are some others: Marvin Harrison (36), Isaac Bruce (37), Andre Reed (36), Keenan McCardell (37), Jimmy Smith (36), Rod Smith (36), Steve Largent (35).

You get the picture. It’s a lofty goal.

There are perhaps two guys currently playing who have a legitimate shot at hitting 40, although like Driver, we’d term that shot as long.

Baltimore’s Derrick Mason is 36 and like Driver, is solid, if unspectacular. Mason recorded 73 receptions for 1,028 yards last season — his third 1,000-yard season in a row. However, Baltimore added Anquan Boldin and Donte Stallworth in the offseason, so Mason may soon be on his way out the door.

The other player is Terrell Owens, who is 36. Of course, after tallying 55 receptions for 829 yards last season in Buffalo, Owens has yet to find a team for 2010. Couple that with Owens’ interest in being an actor and it doesn’t look likely he’ll play much longer.

Production is going to be key for Driver or any of these guys down the stretch of their careers.

If you look at the historical evidence, it doesn’t look promising.

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