Two weeks into training camp, defensive lineman Johnny Jolly continues to scrape off the rust that accumulated during a three-year drug-related NFL suspension.
“I think Johnny has really kind of done what we thought he would do,” said Packers defensive line coach Mike Trgovac on Thursday. “He’s a little rusty on some things. His legs aren’t quite just naturally back yet. He’s not seeing as fast as he did in the past from the start of camp, and it’s really progressed until now. I think he gets better every day. He’s a really instinctive run player that for a guy that’s been out of football to play some of the runs … it’s been impressive. He just has to keep (going). He even admitted to me early on, ‘It wasn’t coming back, it’s not coming back as fast’. I said, ‘Don’t get frustrated, it will,’ because he’s got a lot of natural instincts.”
Trgovac said he has been careful not to overwork the 30-year-old Jolly because of the long layoff. Jolly has had occasional instances when he has cramped up during training camp.
“You have to kind of be a little bit cautious with him early,” said Trgovac.
“You don’t want to overwork him too much early. He’ll get plenty of work in there and he’s right in the mix of this.”
Jolly has not lost his trademark nasty streak, according to Trgovac.
“That’s kind of tough to go away,” he said. “He still has a great desire for the game. I’ve always said no one loves football more than Johnny. He loves the game and it means a lot to him. It will come back to him. It will take some time.”
Although Jolly said he is a changed man, Trgovac doesn’t see much difference when it comes to football.
“I tell you, when Johnny was in this room and in our building, the change, you don’t really notice as much because Johnny was a great note taker before, he studied his opponent, he did the things we asked him to do,” said Trgovac. “That part, I don’t see a great change in him from that regard, because we never had a problem with him in this building. Obviously he had some issues outside the building, but in this building here Johnny loves football and he’s going to study and do what he needs to do to defeat his opponent.
“He was a good guy when he was in here before. Was very serious about the game. In that realm I don’t see a big change in him. But probably the biggest change, he has a little bit more patience. If something doesn’t go right, I think that everybody matures that way with age, saying ‘OK I missed that, I know what I missed.’ He admits to himself that he missed it.
“He’s become more mature in that regard. If he screwed up he’s going to admit he screwed up. He’s going to take responsibility for it.”
Everyone loves a redemption story, and Trgovac is no different. He would love to see Jolly make it again in the NFL, but he isn’t playing favorites.
“I have a great affection for Johnny but I have a great affection for all of my guys,” he said. “It’s like being a parent. … I root for all my guys and I’m rooting for Johnny. It would be a great story, but at the end of the day this is a business and Ted (Thompson) and Mike (McCarthy) will do what’s best for the team. I would never want to get into rooting for one guy over another because they all mean a lot to me. When you are with them as much as we are -- I’m with them more than I’m with my family -- they mean a lot to me.”