No, they knew as soon as the rumblings stared that Driver was thinking about 'hanging up the cleats,' as he called it, that number 80 was not going to be around for the 2013 season.
I've already waxed poetic about what Donald Driver meant to the Green Bay organization and the role model that he has been for 14 seasons.
But for the casual NFL fan, Driver's retirement, much like his entrance into the league, is a rarity.
An undersized seventh round pick from an HBC school, Driver was never supposed to be a Pro Bowl receiver. He was never supposed to be good enough to make Ted Thompson say, "Thanks, but no thanks," to a Randy Moss trade because Driver was the team's top receiver.
But he was.
And NFL players, receivers in particular, who still feel like they can play, don't hang it up because of loyalty. They don't decide to retire when a team says, "We no longer have room for you." And they certainly don't play special teams in a playoff game just to get on the field.
But Donald Driver did.
Driver told ESPN's Mike and Mike that he had decided he was finished after a conversation with his wife and children. His wife said she didn't want to go anywhere else.
And the all-time leading receiver in Packers history agreed to that choice, despite feeling like he could play. Driver said his kids cemented his decision.
"Someone's always going to tell my kids that their dad was a great football player, but no one will be able to tell my kids that their dad was a great dad and a great husband. I have to show them that."
Sure, Driver could have gone and played in Minnesota, who reportedly had interest in signing him. Hell, he probably could have started for the talent-starved Vikings. But he didn't because he was loyal to his family.
In Green Bay, as a Packer, family means not just those related to you, but the people who support you. That's why Driver is holding a retirement party for him and about 3,000 of his closest friends and family-members February 6, to explain his decision to retire.
"I want to do something special. I want to do it in front of the fans, something no other player has done," he told ESPN, but wouldn't go into detail about his reasons. He wanted the fans to hear it first.
Donald Driver has always been the type of player who understood that Green Bay was a special place, that the fans were a unique group because they cared about what he did not just as a player, but as a person.
As a Packer.
Driver made it easy by being a visible member of the community through advertising and myriad charity organizations he helped.
Driver got what it meant to be a Green Bay Packer, and not just as a historical franchise, but what it meant to the city of Green Bay, the state of Wisconsin and the fans across the country who always loved Driver in a way that was hard to describe.
When he was asked what he'll remember most, his answer was simple,"All 14 years, everyday," Driver said with his trademark smile.
"I think the biggest thing is walking out of that tunnel in Lambeau. That's a special place to walk out of. That's something I'll never forget."
There were big catches over the middle, bone-crushing hits he took, and countless shimmies after third down catches. Driver's smile and spirit will always be his legacy in Green Bay. By choosing his team, his family, and his fans above his career, Driver underscored that legacy as a Packer, and his loyalty will never be forgotten.
He chose the love of his team and his fans over the love of himself and the game he sacrificed everything to excel in. For the casual NFL fan, it's hard to fathom.
But Green Bay fans will acknowledge Driver's accomplishments and this final act of selflessness with a wink and nudge to one another, understanding that you have to be a part of the Packers family to get it.
You might have some understanding of it when 3,000 people brave the Wisconsin winter to say goodbye to one player after a final, unremarkable season. But that's what being part of the Cheesehead family is all about.
Peter Bukowski lives in New York and has been covering sports since 2007. He is an award-winning television and newspaper reporter. Follow him on Twitter @BukoTime
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