Jolly Helping Those He's Battling

After a three-year suspension and term in prison, it would be easy to get the idea that Johnny Jolly is a bad person. For the young players who hadn't met Jolly, they've been surprised to find a good teammate.

Playing in his first game in 43 months, Johnny Jolly didn't appear on the official stat sheet following Friday's preseason game against Arizona.

That doesn't mean he hasn't made an impact.

Just ask his teammates. The veterans went to bat for Jolly as the team considered bringing him back following his three-year suspension and stint in prison. And Jolly has served as an on-the-field mentor to the team's many young defensive linemen.

"I knew he was going to be a pretty good guy after being around the rest of the guys and how they talked about him in a positive way," first-round pick Datone Jones said. "I felt like he's a guy that people should get to know instead of just judging. Everyone should get to know him because he's a really good guy, a fun guy to be around."

It's not unusual to see Jolly talking to the likes of second-year pro Mike Daniels or rookies Jones and Josh Boyd and sharing tips and tricks of the trade learned during his first four seasons in the league. What is unusual is that Jolly is fighting with Boyd, Daniels and others for a roster spot.

"I think that's just the nature of him and really it's the nature of all of the guys in my room," defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. "They do that all the time. Believe me, I've been in rooms where a veteran's not going to tell this rookie anything because, ‘That sucker wants my job.' These are good guys."

After a slow start, Jolly had some good moments during his 22 snaps against the Cardinals. He got in the backfield a couple of times, including one in which he just missed a sack, and did a nice job stringing out a fourth-down rollout by quarterback Ryan Lindley that resulted in an incompletion. He says he's "not all the way" back, but he's slowly working off the rust from his long layoff.

"Oh, man, it's all great," Jolly said after the game. "I'm just pushing to better myself to help better the team, and I'm going to continue to do that during practice and these preseason games."

Jolly will need a big push during these final two-plus weeks. B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, Mike Neal and Jones are locks to make the team, and C.J. Wilson and Daniels are far and away the front-runners for two more spots. The Packers could go with those six. If they keep seven, it probably would come down to the veteran Jolly and the fifth-round pick Boyd.

Still, Jolly has been more than willing to share his wisdom with Boyd.

"Yeah, it is (surprising)," Boyd said. "I can't do nothing but be grateful for him trying to help me, with the position that we're in and fighting for the job. I'm grateful. He's been in the league, he knows how to handle himself and he cares enough to give me a few tips."

Jolly's last season in the league was 2009. After ranking toward the bottom of the league in yards allowed per carry without Jolly the past three seasons, Daniels said the team has watched plenty of film from the 2009 unit, which set a franchise record for rushing defense.

"I knew a lot about him," Jones said. "I watch a ton of football. I'm a D-lineman and I love watching other D-linemen. That's my thing."

Jones kept an open mind regarding Jolly's off-the-field troubles. He called Jolly a "good guy" who "pushes us every day."

"If he sees me do something wrong in a drill," Jones said, "he'll come to me and say, ‘You've got to do this. You've got to shoot your hands right here or do this a little more. Now, get after it.' It's not like we're all out there competing against each other. We're watching each other. If he sees me mess up, he'll say, ‘C'mon, Datone, you've got to fix that.'"

Daniels kept an open mind, too. From conversations with the veterans, Daniels knew Jolly was a good teammate, regardless of his other issues.

"He cares. He's a team-first guy. Definitely not selfish," Daniels said. "You hear some things, you just don't know what to think and then I meet him and, golly, it's just so unfortunate for what happened to him, to happen to a guy like him. He's a guy that, dang, he doesn't deserve that. I'm just saying in a sense of when you get to know him, he's such an awesome person. He cares. He's definitely about that brotherhood. We've grown a lot closer."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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