This 2007 photo shows Green Bay Packers Johnny Jolly (97) gets a hold of Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Byron Leftwich (7) in the first half of a preseason game against Jacksonville at Lambeau Field.
For the past year, Johnny Jolly has been working through the process of returning to the Green Bay Packers following a three-year suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on substance abuse.
The 30-year-old defensive lineman cleared a significant hurdle in that comeback on Wednesday when he graduated from his court-ordered drug-rehabilitation program in Houston and is eligible to return to the team, according to WBAY-TV in Green Bay (http://tinyurl.com/orxy6x6).
A sixth-round pick in the 2006 NFL Draft, Jolly was suspended indefinitely by the NFL in 2010 after multiple arrests in Houston for felony codeine possession. He served six months of a six-year term in jail for violating probation and was released last May and placed on shock probation for 10 years.
On Wednesday, the judge who sentenced Jolly, Hon. Denise Bradley, handed him a diploma for completing the program in front of friends and family.
Jolly hasn’t played in the NFL since 2009 and has a long road ahead of him after missing three full seasons, but is looking forward to moving on with the next chapter in his life.
“She seen something in me even though she gave me the sentence, she seen something in me. Today I stand here I’m a free man,” said Jolly in the WBAY report. “My life is going great. I’m back with my team the Packers. I just want to say thank you. She’s done a really good thing for me.”
There are still no guarantees for Jolly. Shortly after his reinstatement, a league source told Press-Gazette Media the team strongly considered giving him his release before deciding to offer him a second chance.
Earlier this offseason, the Packers reduced Jolly’s contract to the veteran minimum of $715,000 from the $2.5 million he was set to earn upon signing his first-round tender as a restricted free agent shortly before his 2010 arrest for felony codeine possession.
Jolly faces an uphill battle to regain his spot with 10 other defensive linemen currently on the roster, including eight holdovers from last season and 2013 first-round pick Datone Jones.
The fact the organization was willing to give him a second chance, however, is more than what Jolly could ask for after having an “excellent meeting” with the team a few weeks ago.
“I don’t know anyone who sat out three years and was able to go back to the same team,” Jolly said. “They understand my situation and they’re willing to be there for me. I’m just doing everything I need to do to be in shape and do everything I have to do for my team. They’ve been there. I’m going to do my best to get them what they want to see this year. I’ll be doing everything in my power to get ready.”