According to Pro Football Weekly, the Packers are considering rescinding their restricted free agent tender to defensive end Johnny Jolly.
That would almost be expected if Jolly is found guilty in his often-delayed trial for possession of codeine. That case allegedly will begin on Tuesday.
Jolly was arrested almost 23 months ago for the alleged possession of at least 200 grams of codeine while hanging out with friends outside a notorious club in his hometown of Houston. Jolly faces between two and 20 years in prison if convicted, but as a first-time offender, there’s a good chance he’d be given probation.
A Green Bay pharmacist said that much codeine would last someone battling pain at least a year to consume. The upper ends of what a pharmacist would prescribe would be a dosage including 60 milligrams of codeine. Assuming the codeine Jolly allegedly possessed was exactly 200 grams, that would equate to 3,333 doses of the maximum 60 milligrams.
Jolly was arrested on July 8, 2008, so the Packers were well-informed when they gave him the first-round restricted free agent tender worth $2.531 million. Jolly has not signed the tender and has not participated in Green Bay’s offseason workouts. That tender, however, signals how much the Packers like Jolly, whose passionate play was a big reason why the Packers led the NFL in run defense. It also might signal the Packers' belief that Jolly will prevail in court. Given Jolly's legal problems, a lesser tender might have been enough to scare off other teams.
The offer can be removed at any point, and even if he signs it, restricted free agent contracts do not involve any money, so the Packers could release him with no financial obligations.
It’s almost a given that Jolly will be suspended by the NFL, considering commissioner Roger Goodell has a history of suspending players who have not been found guilty. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, for instance, will start the season with a six-game suspension.
The sexual-assault allegation against Roethlisberger — even though he was not arrested and no criminal chargers were filed by the accuser — “reflects poorly on our brand,” Goodell said last month. Thus, even if Jolly is found not guilty, he might be found guilty of bad judgment and keeping bad company by Goodell. Possible parole violations — photos allegedly show Jolly with alcohol at parties — would be taken into account by Goodell, too.
"It is not enough simply to avoid being found guilty of a crime," states the player conduct policy stiffened by Goodell in early 2007. "Instead, as an employee of the NFL or a member club, you are held to a higher standard and expected to conduct yourself in a way that is responsible, promotes the values upon which the League is based, and is lawful."
The Packers have wisely begun planning for life without Jolly. They drafted defensive ends Mike Neal (second round) and C.J. Wilson (seventh round), and moved former starting nose tackle Ryan Pickett to Jolly’s spot at left defensive end. Justin Harrell, the 2007 draft bust, also would be in the mix if he can finally stay healthy. Ronald Talley, who spent last season on the practice squad, is a possibility, too.
Agent Brian Overstreet, not surprisingly, did not respond to an interview request.
The Packers haven’t had a player convicted of a felony since Mossy Cade in 1987. While the facts seem stacked against Jolly, it’s important to note that only the prosecution has laid out its case. Innocent until proven guilty remains a staple of the U.S. judicial system. As of right now, Jolly is a man with a clean rap sheet.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.