The Green Bay Packers wait on reinstated defensive end Johnny Jolly, believing he deserves a second chance after a three-year suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
And while coach Mike McCarthy has refused to discuss what's keeping Jolly from reporting to the team's organized team activities, McCarthy said after Tuesday's OTA that everyone - including Jolly - deserves a shot at redemption.
"I think our society is built on second chances. Think how many times you look through the history of successful individuals that probably or maybe wouldn't have happened without a second chance," McCarthy said after the Packers returned to work for their second week of OTAs after players had the Memorial Day weekend off.
"Every case is different. There's no absolute right way and wrong way when you evaluate every situation. I'm glad to see Johnny Jolly going through the process that he's going through. Very proud of where he is to this point but he still has a lot in front of him."
Jolly was one of the Packers' best defensive linemen before multiple arrests for possession of codeine earned him a six-year prison sentence he began serving in November 2011. However, after just six months in jail, Jolly was released and put on "shock probation" for the next decade.
He was suspended indefinitely by the NFL before the 2010 season, in which the Packers won the Super Bowl.
Exactly what's keeping Jolly away from the Packers' offseason program is unclear. McCarthy won't say. Jolly's agent, Jack Bechta, did not respond to an email Tuesday. Jolly has not responded to multiple attempts to contact him through social media. All McCarthy has said repeatedly that Jolly is going through "the process."
Jolly had signed a one-year, $2.521 million free-agent tender in 2010, and his contract was suspended at the time of his league suspension. Upon his reinstatement in March by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after missing the 2010, 2011 and 2012 seasons, Jolly agreed to a restructured contract that will pay him the veteran minimum of $715,000 if he makes the team.
Last week, Jolly graduated from his court-ordered drug-rehabilitation program in Houston. In the audience for Jolly's graduation Wednesday were Packers director of player programs Rob Davis and personnel executive Alonzo Highsmith. Defensive line coach Mike Trgovac has been keeping in touch with Jolly as much as he could under NFL rules since the suspension was handed down.
"Not so much ever thinking he'd ever come back here. That was not my intent of it," Trgovac said Tuesday. "Johnny's such a good guy, and sometimes good guys get in a bad way, and I just care about him as a person. That's why I stayed in contact with him as much as I was allowed to.
"There were times when I wasn't actually allowed to contact him based on the rules, him being (suspended). I was in contact with his mother and stuff like that. If I broke a rule, I didn't try to. I tried to stay within all the rules. But I just care about him as a person."
The bigger question, though, is what the 6-foot 3, 310-pound Jolly has left as a player. He appeared to be a perfect fit for defensive coordinator Dom Capers' 3-4 defense in the lone year he got to play in the system, starting all 16 games in 2009 and finishing with 24 tackles, one sack and 10 passes defended. In total, Jolly started 39 games for Green Bay after being drafted in the sixth round in 2006 out of Texas A&M.
"It's hard to say until you see a guy out there working with the other guys," Capers said. "We've got a group of guys that have been working awful hard. It's hard to get yourself ready to play this game unless you're out there on the field going through the drill work and all that. I don't care how much you work on your own, it's different. We'll just have to wait and see with Johnny."
The odds are against the 30-year-old Jolly, one of 11 defensive linemen on the roster, including first-round draft pick Datone Jones. The Packers have taken four defensive linemen in the past two drafts.
Trgovac said he has seen Jolly in person several times since his reinstatement but isn't sure what kind of shape he's in.
"He was here a few times, but I have not seen him move around or on the field or anything like that. So I don't know anything in that regard," Trgovac said. "It doesn't look like he blew up, if that's what you're asking."
As for Jolly's skill level and how much rust could build up during such a long layoff, Trgovac suggested it may not be a big issue.
"Defensive line is not the hardest position to learn. I don't want to say we're dummies, but it's not like playing (defensive back) where the coverages will change," Trgovac said. "(The hardest thing) is probably just your timing. Whether the guy can maintain his quickness and stuff like that. But with him being laid off, I really don't have any idea. I'm kind of excited for him to be here."
ROLL CALL: Not participating in practice Tuesday were RB DuJuan Harris (unknown), S Sean Richardson (neck), CB Davon House (shoulder), CB Sam Shields (unsigned), OLB Dezman Moses (unknown), ILB Desmond Bishop (hamstring), rookie OL JC Tretter (ankle), OT Derek Sherrod (leg), DT Ryan Pickett (unknown), DE Jerel Worthy (knee), and rookie WRs Kevin Dorsey (unknown) and Charles Johnson (unknown). McCarthy won't discuss injuries keeping players out of action.