Mike Vandermause column: Honeymoon on hold as Jolly works to make roster

Jul. 28, 2013

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Green Bay Packers defensive tackle Johnny Jolly runs through drills Saturday. / H. Marc Larson/Press-Gazette Media


Johnny Jolly got married last Monday and three days later reported to Green Bay Packers training camp.

A long, romantic honeymoon will have to wait while Jolly attempts to resume his football career.

He met his new wife, Voniecie, three years ago after getting slapped with an NFL suspension for violating the leagues drug policy. The couple has stayed together through one of the most difficult periods of Jollys life, when he squandered millions of dollars and got thrown in jail.

When asked if Voniecie helped him through the ordeal, Jolly replied: Oh yeah, she stays on my (butt).

Its yet another step forward in the transformation of Jolly, who is attempting to hold himself accountable and take responsibility for his life.

No one has to look after me like Im a child, said Jolly on Sunday in the Packers locker room. Im a grown man and like I said, I do the right thing and dont think about doing the bad thing and stay focused and put my faith in God. Thats all I can do.

The Packers defensive lineman, who hasnt played an NFL game since January 2010, knows he let a lot of people down.

You dont want to never let your peers down, Jolly said. I feel like I let my team down before, I dont want to do that again. I let my family down before, I let myself down before. Im just not trying to go back down that road.

Its believed Jolly ballooned to nearly 400 pounds during his suspension. I was big, Jolly said.

He developed better eating and workout habits and shed a lot of pounds. He wouldnt reveal his weight, although hes listed at 325 on the roster.

The team is happy with my weight, Im happy with it, Jolly said. Im moving good. Im good at where Im at.

Jolly is also in a good place mentally. He is a humbled man who seems genuinely grateful to be back in Green Bay with a chance to resume his football career.

Im so happy, Jolly said. I mean, I dont know many guys that get a second chance, but a second chance back to the team that you were drafted to, thats a blessing from God. The whole time that I was suspended I had faith that I would be back in this position. I just kept trying to do the right thing.

Jolly hasnt lost his trademark mean streak. During the Packers first padded practice Sunday, he was at times disruptive along the line and also found himself in the middle of a couple skirmishes.

He brings some of that nastiness to the defense over there, brings some swagger over there to the defensive line, said Packers receiver James Jones. Its good to see him back. I am definitely rooting for him.

Packers coach Mike McCarthy said over the weekend Jolly is off to a good start at camp, but he plans to limit his practice snaps as a precaution.

With Johnny, thats where he always thrived, as an inside player and his ability to get off blocks, his instincts, McCarthy said. He just needs as much (work) as he can (get).

Its rare for a player to make a successful return after being out of the game so long. But after seeing Jolly report to camp in decent shape and hold up well in the first three days of practice, the feeling is growing that he could pull it off.

Eight-year veteran Jarrett Bush is convinced Jolly will make the team.

Definitely, not even a (question), Bush said. I think hes going to be out there making plays, no doubt.

I really think hes more fresh, more hungry.

Jolly would rather not speculate on his chances or what he can bring to the line.

Im just one of the 90 right now, Jolly said. I cant say whether Im the one thats going to give them the edge or not. Im just trying to make this team just like everybody else.

Jolly loves football and wants nothing more than to extend his career, but hes more levelheaded now and said he could survive without the game.

My path is fine, said Jolly, who talked about wanting to complete his college degree. I wouldnt say that I need (football), but I love the sport, so I want to play and Ive been through so much stuff. Its made me a stronger person, a wiser person. Its things in life that you just have to go through and learn from, and Im a better man.

mvandermause@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause.

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