According to the National Football Post, Packers defensive end Johnny Jolly has applied for reinstatement to the National Football League. The 29-year-old has been on indefinite suspension since July 2010. He was recently released from prison just six months into a six-year sentence for violating the terms of his probation for a drug conviction.
If reinstated by Commissioner Roger Goodell, Jolly would like to return to the Packers. “I am dedicated to really make a change in my life and come back and be a positive role model,” he said. “I think I have a great shot at going back to those guys. They’re a great organization. The coaches are very good, the players are good. I know they have supported me 100 percent. I want to say that would be a dream come true, but I made it in the NFL before. So, I would say it would be like another dream. It would be a journey and going back to do the things I love and showing everybody you can make mistakes but it’s the way you correct the things you’ve done wrong. I want to make the Packers look good if they want to take me back or not.”
Prior to his off-the-field problems, Jolly was developing into a premier 3-4 end. The former Texas A&M star was a big reason the Packers were the No. 1 run defense in the league in 2009. Blessed with great size (6’3, 325) and strength, Jolly was rarely knocked off his spot that season. And while he managed only one sack, he was athletic and alert enough to bat down a franchise-record 11 passes at the line of scrimmage. He also played the game with unbridled energy – an often overlooked trait that was glaringly missing from last season’s zombie-like defensive unit.
Assuming Jolly is clean and sober, it’s hard to imagine Goodell not allowing him back into the league. After all, plenty of currently active players have done far worse things. Philadelphia’s Michael Vick killed and tortured dogs. New England’s Donte’ Stallworth killed an innocent pedestrian while driving drunk. Chicago’s Brandon Marshall has been arrested multiple times on suspicion of domestic violence. Baltimore’s Ray Lewis, one of the faces of the NFL, was sentenced to probation for obstructing justice in the stabbing deaths of two men. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
It’s likely that general manager Ted Thompson will have a decision to make in the near future. Jolly signed a one-year deal worth $2.5 million on June 15, 2010, so the Packers still own his rights. But would Thompson want him back? That’s hard to predict, but the guess here is no. And it has nothing to do with morality. Thompson has given second chances to a number of other players in the past. A good example is wide receiver Koren Robinson, who was welcomed back in October 2007 after completing a one-year suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
But Jolly’s situation is different. He hasn’t played a down of football since January 2010. Even worse, he hasn’t worked out with the Packers since that time. The odds of him being in anything resembling football shape are about the same as the odds of Sean Payton and Gregg Williams vacationing with Goodell this summer. In fact, Jolly has already admitted to being overweight. “I’m in pretty good shape,” Jolly told the National Football Post’s Brad Biggs. “I would like to lose about 10 pounds. I’m probably at 332 right now, about 7 pounds over my playing weight.”
Look, I have no idea how much Jolly weighs, but if he admits to 332, I’m guessing the actual number is a bit higher. I just don’t think he’ll be ready to play football in September – at least not this September. I hope I’m wrong. I’ve been one of Jolly’s biggest supporters for years and the state of the current defensive line – even with the influx of new talent – still concerns me. The Jolly of 2009 would make the Packers defense, or any defense for that matter, a lot better. But that player no longer exists. Here’s hoping neither does that self-destructive human being.