The Green Bay Packers aren’t ruling out the possibility of reinstated defensive end Johnny Jolly helping them this season, but knowing what he has left after a three-year layoff or even deciding how extensive of a look they will give him are a long way off.
Both Packers general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy said Sunday afternoon at the annual NFL Meetings at the Arizona Biltmore resort that the first step toward discerning what role if any Jolly will have in 2013 will be talking to him. And even that hasn’t happened yet.
“I think we’ll just take that step-by-step and see,” Thompson said in an informal gathering with a handful of writers. “The first step is for everybody to sit down and talk, that sort of thing. We don’t have any answers. I don’t think anybody has all the answers. But we’re going to talk to the man and find out all the stuff that we can find out in terms of his obligations and that sort of thing.
“Johnny was a good football player for us. But let’s take this step by step.”
Jolly was reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on March 4 after his indefinite suspension for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy wound up lasting three years.
According to the NFL Players Association website, the recently reinstated Jolly is now under contract with the Packers for a one-year, $715,000 contract for the 2013 season. He had been scheduled to be paid the one-year, $2.5 million restricted free agent tender that he’d signed in 2010, before his suspension.
The Packers retained his rights after his suspension and certainly could use some help on the defensive line, but both Thompson and McCarty acknowledged that it’s hard to say what toll being away from the game has taken on Jolly, who turned 30 on Feb. 21.
“There’s a process going on. Obviously there are some things you have to go through with his legal situation,” said McCarthy, who also hasn’t seen Jolly yet. “He has to come to Green Bay, and there’s going to be some meeting. As with any player, you go through a medical process. We’ll go through all that. I think it’s important to go through all that before we get into how we feel.
“Johnny, I’ve always considered him one of our guys, and everybody knows what he’s been through. It would be great if this opportunity works out. But as an organization, we have a responsibility to go through the process.”
A sixth-round pick in 2006 out of Texas A&M, the 6-foot-3, 325-pound Jolly was the team’s best defensive lineman in 2009, when the Packers ranked No. 1 in the NFL against the run and No. 2 in total defense. He led all defensive linemen with 75 tackles and also had a sack and forced fumble. The 11 passes he batted down were a team record for linemen since the team began recording the stat in 1980.
According to ProFootballFocus.com, Jolly played 853 snaps in 2009 and was credited with five quarterback hits and 13 hurries.
When it was pointed out that the Packers could have just cut him either during his suspension or after he was reinstated, McCarthy replied, “I think it’s important to just continue to gather the information. There’s no final decision been made, but I think it’s important for us to meet face to face and go through the medical part of it, which you would do with any player.”