After a three-year absence, Johnny Jolly felt as if he'd never been away.
The defensive lineman was in uniform and practiced Tuesday during the first day of the Green Bay Packers minicamp. He's trying to regain a spot on the team after being suspended for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy and doing time in prison following multiple arrests for codeine possession. He was reinstated in March, and completed a court-ordered drug-rehabilitation program last month.
“Just knowing the organization that I've been around, I know that those guys, they're going to stick with their players,” Jolly said. “With that being said, Aaron (Rodgers) had an interview for something and mentioned my name. I think that helped out a lot. I'm blessed. I'm at a loss for words about it but I'm happy to be back.”
Rodgers is one of the few players on a young roster who has played alongside Jolly. Jolly’s last game was the 2009 wild-card loss at Arizona.
“Hard to think about one guy I was more excited about seeing back in here than Johnny Jolly,” Jolly said. “Been through a lot, missed his presence in the locker room the past few years and excited that he got reinstated. He’s getting his life together and it’s fun having him back. He’s an exciting player and a great teammate and we’re really fortunate to have him back.”
The Packers' playbook hasn't changed much during Jolly's absence, and he says things are coming back quickly. Coach Mike McCarthy isn't putting any pressure on the big tackle.
“The biggest thing for Johnny Jolly is just to be one of the 90,” McCarthy said. “That’s really the way I want to go about it. Our locker room is ready to embrace him and make sure that he has the support he needs to ... not football-wise. The football part, I’m not really worried about. I just want to make sure that he gets into a routine. Regularity is important to everybody, especially a professional athlete. We just want to get him back into the regularity, the rhythm and the every-day procedures and get back on the horse and start riding again. Once again, he’s a football player competing for a job at the end of the day. You want to get him on that path.”