Johnny Jolly hasn't played in a football game in nearly four years. But despite a six-month prison stint, tattered reputation and the millions of dollars that he could have earned, he is rather fortunate. Jolly gets another chance. A couple of years ago, this seemed like such a long shot, given multiple arrests and so many drug-related issues. His NFL career seemed finished. But the Green Bay Packers are willing to give the rehabbing defensive end a job again. He is expected to rejoin the team within days, after settling legal issues. Sure, it also helps that a sobered Jolly, 30, apparently still looks the part of a strapping, 6-3, 325-pound wrecking ball. During his developmental years with the Pack, he was known for his great instincts and knack for shedding blocks — which in layman's terms means tossing aside the thick, sweaty blockers stationed along his path of destruction. A sputtering Packers defense, which has added four linemen from the past two drafts, could use a flashback from Jolly. During his last active season, 2009, the Packers led the NFL in rushing defense for the only time in the franchise's long and storied history (83.3 yards per game, 3.6 per carry), which nose tackle B.J. Raji swears was no coincidence, given Jolly's input at left end. Last season, Green Bay ranked 17th against the run. So, as the Packers await the return of a convicted felon whose indefinite NFL suspension was lifted by Commissioner Roger Goodell in February, there's obviously a distinct business purpose involved. Talent sells, even with reduced-rate contracts. If Jolly can regain his form. "I think guys want to see what kind of physical condition he's in," quarterback Aaron Rodgers told USA TODAY Sports. "But most importantly, it's where he's at mentally? Is he ready to play football? Will he put his past behind him and move forward? "The most important thing for us as teammates is to provide him with the positive reinforcement and make sure that we can help him as much as we can." Some might argue that Jolly — who had a six-year sentence for a probation violation reduced to 10 years of shock probation — doesn't deserve to play in the privileged NFL again, with his problems linked to possession of controlled substances. After receiving probation following a 2008 arrest in his hometown of Houston for possession of codeine, Jolly was suspended indefinitely by the NFL in 2010 while awaiting trial. He was arrested twice in 2011 on drug charges, which led to the probation violation and prison time. Yet the opportunity for redemption and NFL rehabilitation goes hand in hand with the ability to use marketable skills to earn a living in our capitalist society. The Packers, who drafted Jolly in the sixth round from Texas A&M in 2006, think it's worth it to give him a shot that could become the foundation for building a productive life over the long haul. "The football part of it, there's a lot to love there," Packers coach Mike McCarthy told USA TODAY Sports. "He's a guy who's done it on a high level. But this is more about a man getting a second chance." McCarthy says it was a "tough" decision to bring Jolly back, even while the team lessened its financial risk by renegotiating his contract when he was suspended indefinitely. Jolly had signed a one-year, $2.5 million tender as a restricted free agent before his 2010 arrest but now will come back with a veteran minimum salary of $710,000.
Ability means troubled Packer Johnny Jolly gets second chance
USA Today | May 30