Jolly in line to become free agent
According to his representation, the indefinitely suspended defensive lineman is taking care of business and meeting conditions that would allow him to be reinstated by the NFL next season. But if, and when, that happens, there’s no guarantee he’ll continue to be a member of the Packers.
“At the end of the season, he will ultimately become a free agent or a restricted free agent, depending on what happens with the collective bargaining agreement,” said Eric Armstead, an associate of Jolly’s agent, Brian Overstreet.
Jolly signed a one-year free agent tender before being suspended without pay. Armstead likened Jolly’s contract situation to a player who has been suspended for four games in that even though that player may be suspended, his contract is still binding.
Jolly joins a sizable group of Packers whose contracts expire at the end of this season, including Desmond Bishop, James Jones, Brandon Jackson, Korey Hall and Mason Crosby.
Also part of that group is fellow defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins, leaving the Packers potentially thin at that position heading into next year.
As for Jolly, he is living in his native Houston since not only being suspended by the NFL but also since entering a pretrial diversion program, the successful completion of which could allow Jolly’s felony drug possession charges to be dismissed.
The defensive lineman originally was charged with possession of more than 200 grams of codeine, for which he has also gained even more attention as a high-profile figure associated with the cultural phenomenon known as “Purple Drank,” a concoction mixing codeine with soda and Jolly Ranchers candies.
Jolly, however, is purportedly staying clean and following the conditions in order to resume his career in professional football.
“He has been following them religiously,” said Armstead. “He has meetings; he has classes; he has just things that he needs to do to get to where he needs to be.”
Jolly was suspended by the NFL for violating the league’s substance abuse policy before pleading guilty to felony drug charges. Armstead declined to say specifically what Jolly did to violate the policy, other than to admit he broke the rules.
“I think it’s obvious that there was some violation, and the commissioner has taken it upon himself to sit Johnny for those violations,” said Armstead. “And I think that he’s taken responsibility for those, and he didn’t appeal anything. We just went forward and said, ‘We made some mistakes and we want to do better.’ ”
As part of the agreement that would allow his charges to be dropped, Jolly has been taking part in a rigorous schedule that involves 160 hours of community service requirements that include public speaking engagements at local churches and targeting the youth at schools in the Houston area. Jolly also attends classes and meets regularly with a clinician. In the little bit of free time he has, Jolly has been keeping in shape and spending time with family. Armstead, who describes his relationship with Jolly as “very close,” insists Jolly is sincere in his intentions to overcome his substance abuse issues. “Let me make it clear,” said Armstead, “he’s not doing this just because the court said you need to do this, or the league says you need to do this, or the only reason you’re doing this is to get back into the league. “He’s doing it because I think he’s a young man, he’s a product of his environment, and now he wants to change that. He really does want to do better, and that’s the difference.” While Armstead couldn’t confirm whether any coaches contact Johnny personally, he says the Packers front office—specifically general manager Ted Thompson and vice president of football administration Russ Ball—are in frequent communication.
“Ted has been very … kind of sticking by Johnny’s side,” said Armstead. “And you know, Ted is a very stern gentleman. He really doesn’t talk about football much. He’s more concerned about Johnny the person as he is Johnny the athlete.”
As to whether Jolly will remain a Packer after the season, Armstead is hopeful Thompson will welcome him back.
“From my indications, I think so,” said Armstead. “I’m sure it’s a team decision, and I think ultimately (Thompson) comes back to Johnny and what he’s doing to get back on track. And I think they’ll reevaluate that at the necessary time, and he’ll make the decision.”