Johnny Jolly returned to the Green Bay Packers and the National Football League for the first time in three years Tuesday and you didn't even have to ask how he was feeling. It was obvious from his smile and gratitude.

"I feel great. It's a blessing to have a second chance," the defensive lineman said Tuesday afternoon after the Packers completed the first day of minicamp. "I take my hat off to the Packers. That showed a lot, them accepting me after everything I had been through."

Jolly served a suspension imposed by the league, spent several months in prison and has undergone drug and addiction treatment. He said he hasn't had codeine in 19 months.

Jolly arrived in Green Bay on Sunday, passed his physical Monday and practiced on a limited basis Tuesday. Packers coach Mike McCarthy said his goal for Jolly was to re-establish a football routine. He wouldn't evaluate Jolly's football appearance after just one day.

"It's great to have him back," said McCarthy. "The biggest thing for Johnny Jolly is just to be one of the 90. That's really the way I want to go about it. Our locker room is ready to embrace him and make sure that he has the support he needs...not football-wise. The football part, I'm not really worried about."

One of Jolly's greatest fears had been to try to come back to football through free agency. The Packers have been protective of his privacy and welcoming as well. With players such as Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji and Aaron Rodgers checking in on him now and then by contacting his mother, he had always clung to the idea of returning to the Packers.

A sixth-round pick out of Texas A&M in 2006, Jolly started 39 of 48 games in his first four seasons, including all 16 in '08 and '09. When Dom Capers' 3-4 defense was put in place, he was disruptive at end and tackle and had a sack, interception and two fumble recoveries.

But then in July 2008 he was charged with possessing more than 200 grams of codeine during a Houston traffic stop. He played through the 2009 season while prosecutors built a case against him and eventually was given pretrial diversion, a form of probation that allows for charges to be dropped in a year if no other crime is committed.

Jolly was suspended indefinitely before the start of the 2010 season for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. He missed the Packers' Super Bowl run that season.

Jolly was reported to be in the process of applying for reinstatement early in 2011, but he was arrested again and charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute in March of that year. Spared from prison and put on probation, Jolly was arrested again for possession of codeine in Houston that October.

"The lowest point was when I caught that last case," said Jolly. "It was like, I know I didn't do this again. I had to deal with it."

A Houston judge sentenced him to six years in prison for violating his probation.

He began that term in November 2011 but was released the following May after a judge granted his application for "shock probation" — suspension of a sentence in hopes the incarceration makes the offender understand the seriousness of his situation.