Johnny Jolly making NFL comeback with Packers after 3-year suspension
Jolly was at the Packers’ minicamp on Tuesday, practicing with his teammates and catching up on how much the game has evolved over the past three years. While most veterans would consider the minicamps a tedious affair and breeze through the entire practice, Jolly appeared more enthusiastic about the whole situation after craving the feeling of practicing on the field with his teammates for a long time.
''It was excellent. It was excellent. I'm out there laughing and joking with the guys, it just felt like I never left,” said Jolly, coming out of practice with a wide grin spread across his face. “It was just like, man, this is a relief. Oh my God, I'm back on the field, practicing with the dudes I love to play ball with. It was great.''
The former sixth-round pick was facing suspension for an indefinite period by the NFL in July 2010 for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, due to which he missed the Packers’ Super Bowl championship run and consecutive NFC North division titles. Two years prior to the suspension, in April 2008, Jolly had been arrested in his home town of Houston or codeine possession. Jolly pleaded guilty to the charges and was given, with the understanding that another violation could lead to significant prison time. But while the Packers were in the midst of a 15-1 regular season during 2011, Jolly violated his probation as he was arrested again for codeine possession and shipped off to prison on a six year sentence.
''It was crazy because I knew I needed to chill, but it was like I was getting a thrill out of what I was doing so I was just doing it,'' said Jolly. “Sometimes you lose focus. You can't get yourself back on track, so God sits you down and puts you back on track. And that's what happened to me.”
''I hate that I had to go through that,'' continued Jolly. ''But it was a lesson learned.''
However, in the fall out of the multiple arrests and potentially jeopardizing his NFL career, somehow Jolly found his way back as he worked hard to find ways during the short time he was allotted in prison to stay in shape. Jolly was released from prison six months into the six-year sentence on “shock” probation and after being reinstated by the NFL in March, he spent the last month completing a court ordered rehab program.
Luckily for him, Jolly had the Packers’ support throughout the whole ordeal – arrests, suspension and rehab included.
"I think our society is built on second chances,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who often visited Jolly at the rehab facility, said last Monday. “Think how many times you look through the history of successful individuals that probably or maybe wouldn't have happened without a second chance… (I'm) very proud of where he is to this point. But he still has a lot in front of him."
''The biggest thing for Jolly is just to be one of the 90,” added McCarthy. “We just want to get him back into the regularity, the rhythm and the every-day procedures and get back on the horse and start riding again.''