Packers Should Pass If Jolly's Reinstated

Johnny Jolly, a tireless, durable, passionate performer during his two years as a full-time starter, deserves to be reinstated. The Packers hold his rights, but we tell you why there isn't a place for Jolly on the roster, even with Anthony Hargrove and Mike Neal facing suspensions.

Johnny Jolly sounds like a changed man.

Prison tends to have that affect on people.

If Jolly is walking the walk and not just talking the talk when he says he wants to be a "good, reliable citizen that the league ... can trust," he deserves a second chance.

Regardless, that second chance should not be with the Green Bay Packers.

This shouldn't be a personal decision. Instead, it should be a personnel decision.

For some fans, it seems Jolly's absence has made the heart grow fonder, especially considering how poorly the Packers' defensive line played last season.

Truth is, Jolly was a good player but never a great player. In four NFL seasons, Jolly recorded two sacks. Two. Because he was no threat to get to the quarterback, Jolly generally stood around the line of scrimmage on passing plays, which was an effective ploy with a franchise-record 10 passes batted down at the line of scrimmage in 2009. He was pretty good against the run, though even that asset seems to have gotten better with time. According to Pro Football Focus, Jolly ranked 30th out of 36 3-4 defensive ends in 2009 in run stop percentage.

Based on Jolly's play in 2009, he'd probably be a slight favorite to join B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett as the starting defensive linemen in the base alignment this season. However, Jolly hasn't played since 2009 and remains indefinitely suspended.

In April 2011, Jolly pleaded guilty to possession of codeine, which is used to make the street drug called "purple drank." Under terms of his plea, Jolly's record would have been wiped clean had he stayed out of trouble. Instead, Jolly was arrested in October 2011 for possession of codeine and tampering with evidence when he dumped a bottle of codeine on the floor of his truck. He was sentenced to six years in prison, though he was released on May 15 after just six months and put on probation for 10 years.

According to Jolly, he's been sober for eight months, which is encouraging. Commissioner Roger Goodell's history is that he'll give a player a second chance if he's made significant progress in turning his life around. In Jolly's case, that seems to be true.

So, it comes down to football.

What can a 29-year-old player bring to the table after sitting out two years?

As we wrote here and here, the Packers' defensive line is pretty solid. Even taking the suspended Anthony Hargrove and Mike Neal out of the equation, where does Jolly and his two years of rust fit in with a projected pecking order of B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Jerel Worthy, C.J. Wilson, Jarius Wynn, Daniel Muir, Mike Daniels, Phillip Merling and Lawrence Guy?

With the Packers' reliance on their nickel package meaning two defensive linemen are on the field on most plays, they'll take only five or six defensive linemen into the regular season. Given the pass-happy nature of the league, what would Jolly's role be? Remember, this offseason was all about the pass rush, including the additions of second-rounder Worthy, fourth-rounder Daniels and free-agent Hargrove. Jolly is a nonfactor against the pass, which would put him behind Raji, Worthy, Wynn and Daniels, at least.

Sure, playing run defense is important. So there's this data from Pro Football Focus: In 2009, Jolly run-stop percentage was 4.7. Among 3-4 defensive ends last year, Wilson's was a sixth-ranked 9.6 and Pickett's a 15th-ranked 6.5. Muir had run-stop percentages of 5.3, 5.7 and 8.8 during his three years playing defensive tackle for the Colts.

Finally, knowing a relapse would mean another suspension, would the Packers give a roster spot to Jolly at the expense of, say, Daniels? Given general manager Ted Thompson's youthful approach to roster building, that doesn't make sense.

Does Jolly deserve a second chance? Deserve is a strong word, but if Jolly is truly a changed man, Goodell should reinstate Jolly. Then, it would be up to Green Bay and the rest of the league to determine if a troubled man who hasn't tackled anyone in about 30 months is ready for a second chance at the game he played with such passion.

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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