A lot of thought went into the Green Bay Packers’ decision to bring back Johnny Jolly after the 30-year-old defensive lineman was reinstated by the NFL in February.
When it boiled down to giving Jolly a second chance, however, the decision wasn’t so much about him being a changed man as much as it was him being the same individual he’d always been inside their locker room from 2006 through 2009.
A new drug-free outlook buoyed Jolly's return, but it also came down to some anonymous veteran players stepping up and vouching for the Packers to give Jolly another chance.
“We thought long and hard on that and made a decision based off of our association with Johnny,” Packers general manager Ted Thompson said. “When he’s been here and been on our team – I’m not going to speak for all the other stuff, I’m not going to try to judge – but when he’s been here as part of our team, he’s been a good teammate. He had some veteran players on this team speak up for him.”
Prior to his February reinstatement into the league, Jolly served a three-year NFL suspension for violating the league’s policy on substance abuse. He also served six months of a six-year sentence in a Texas prison for repeated codeine offenses before being granted “shock probation” last year.
A source told Press-Gazette Media earlier this year, the Packers’ organization strongly considered releasing Jolly after his reinstatement before deciding to give him another chance.
Jolly wouldn’t specify where his weight was while meeting with the media on Sunday, but has looked leaner in camp than he was when he returned to the team during organized team activities.
He's shown some explosiveness, too. During his only one-on-one rep against the offensive line, Jolly executed a spin move to beat second-year interior lineman Greg Van Roten.
Inside the Packers’ locker room, Thompson conceded many players didn’t know who Jolly was at first, but he still has something left to offer the team.
"Jolly has some natural ability to play the game. He does things very fluidly and instinctively," said Thompson, who admitted the decision to bring him back was ultimately his call. "The game kind of flows to him. So far so good, we have a long way to go.”