this Aug. 23rd file photo, Green Bay Packers' Johnny Jolly
celebrates during the first half of an NFL preseason football
game against the Seattle Seahawks in Green Bay. Jolly looks
just fine back on the field, especially for someone who had
been away from the league for three years. He's back after
having been suspended by the NFL for violating the league's
GREEN BAY - The
running back was about to break free around the edge when the arm of
a Packers defensive lineman emerged from the pile to take him down.
Johnny Jolly looks
just fine on the line for someone who's been away from the game for
three years. He's wearing green and gold again after being suspended
by the NFL for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
The stamina isn't
all there yet. Getting into NFL shape remains a work in progress.
But so far, Jolly seems to be making a difference while shaking off
got a long way to go," Jolly said. "I'm still working hard
every day to get back, get up to the point that I need to be at.
football, it's a game that we play. Just a few technique things with
me ... to work on, that I know I can do better."
The Packers (1-2)
are 11th in the league against the run going into this weekend's bye
at 93.3 yards per game. It's still early, but Green Bay is giving up
about 25 fewer yards than in 2012, when it was 17th against the run.
There are more
pressing problems for now, such as getting over an early rash of
injuries to key players safety Morgan Burnett and cornerback Casey
Hayward. They haven't played a down yet because of sore hamstrings.
Clay Matthews left the Bengals game with a hamstring injury. Running
back Eddie Lacy and tight end Jermichael Finley are recovering from
remains inconsistent. Oh, and those finishes — not good. Fourth
quarters have been a problem, such as when the Packers got outscored
13-0 by the Bengals in a wild 34-30 loss to Cincinnati.
this Aug. 17th file photo, Green Bay Packers defensive tackle
Johnny Jolly intercepts a pass against the St. Louis Rams
during the third quarter of an NFL football game in St. Louis.
Jolly looks just fine back on the field, especially for
someone who had been away from the league for three years.
He's back after having been suspended by the NFL for violating
the league's substance-abuse policy.
They'll have a week
to stew about giving up that lead to the Bengals; Green Bay hosts
Detroit next on Oct. 6.
"Every week we
have a message. And frankly, our message this week was to focus
through the finish, and we didn't hit that target," coach Mike
McCarthy said. "So, obviously it will be a part of our focus in
Quarterback Aaron Rodgers looks fine overall despite his
two-interception game against the Bengals. Green Bay has produced
two straight 100-yard rushers in James Starks and rookie Johnathan
Franklin after not having one for nearly three years. Although both
Starks (knee) and Franklin (foot) left the Bengals game, too, with
Jolly has helped
bolster a line that also includes wide-bodied veterans Ryan Pickett
and B.J. Raji. Last week, the Bengals did run for two touchdowns,
but were otherwise held to 82 yards on 24 carries, mainly divided
between BenJarvus Green-Ellis and rookie Giovani Bernard.
The Packers also
contained quarterback Colin Kaepernick and running back Front Gore
on the ground in the season-opening 34-28 loss to the 49ers.
"I don't want
to just say this is all about Johnny, where if we're doing good it's
all about Johnny and if we're doing bad it's all on Johnny,"
defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said last week. "Johnny's
just a piece of the cog in there."
Hard to imagine
he's involved at all, given what Jolly went through in recent years.
He was arrested in
April 2008 in his hometown of Houston for possession of codeine, a
controlled substance. Jolly pleaded guilty and was given probation,
with the understanding that another mistake would mean significant
In 2009, Jolly's
last full year in Green Bay, the Packers had the league's best run
defense, giving up 83.3 yards a game. Jolly started all 16 games
that season and finished with 24 tackles, one sack and 10 passes
Bengals running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis (42) scores a
touchdown on a 2-yard run against Green Bay Packers defensive
end Johnny Jolly (97) and nose tackle Ryan Pickett (79) in the
first half of an NFL football game, Sunday in Cincinnati. The
Bengals'Tyler Eifert (85) helps push Green-Ellis across.
lineman was suspended indefinitely by the NFL before the 2010 season
for violating the league's substance abuse policy
In October 2010, he
was arrested again. Jolly was later sentenced to six years for
violating probation. He was released after serving six months and
given 10 years of "shock probation."
Jolly completed a
court-ordered drug-rehabilitation program earlier this year. He
enjoyed strong support from teammates and the franchise in his bid
to return. He worked hard through camp to make it through cut-down
day. He's patiently answered countless questions at his locker over
the last several months about his past.
But Jolly's beyond
the storytelling stage now. His veteran presence is rubbing off on
vocal with some things and he's got a great sense of history of the
league and hierarchy of players: 'You take this rep, you're a
rookie' — that type of thing," Trgovac said.
The line is bonding
together again over fried chicken meals, just like in 2009. The
spread's laid out over a table in the locker room, surrounded by
300-pound linemen hungry after practice.
It's usually the
rookies' job to get the meal. Jolly reminds them.
"Like I'm sure
the vets did when he was a rookie, they made him go get the chicken.
Johnny's real big on that, which is good," Trgovac said.
"He's going to make sure you don't lose that."
Jolly says there's
no noticeable difference in the style or strength of younger players
since the last time he was around. As for his contributions, he's
just working to get back up to speed.
"That's all I
can do," Jolly said, "continue to work and take advantage
of the opportunity."