ESPN Wisconsin

What went wrong with Johnny Jolly?

Nov 19, 2011 -- 1:25pm


By TONY ATKINS
Special to ESPNMilwaukee.com


Beginning in 2006, Johnny Jolly was the big cog in the middle of the defensive line for the Green Bay Packers. He has battled numerous offensive linemen in the trenches and has made the big stops when called upon. Jolly went from playing well in the 4-3 defensive set to successfully transitioning into the Dom Capers 3-4 scheme. He took on all challenges, made adjustments and was a very productive player for the Packers.

Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle for the 6-foot-3 defensive stopper was not an opposing offensive lineman like Jeff Saturday, but Jolly himself. On four different occasions, Jolly was arrested for possession of narcotics and it has taken a huge toll on his NFL playing career -- if not ending it completely. Jolly was sentenced to six years in prison by a Houston judge on November 17, with only a chance of parole in 2013.

According to The Associated Press, Jolly tearfully asked Judge Denise Bradley for another chance, yet those efforts were futile as Bradley decided that Jolly has had more than enough chances to redeem himself. The NFL even suspended him during the entire 2010 season, but those punishments weren’t enough. Jolly kept going back to the well until it dried up. Now the 28 year old defensive stopper will not see the streets possibly until he is 34. (The age of a recently released Plaxico Burress, by the way.)

Could the Packers and the NFL have done something to possibly HELP Jolly instead of suspending him and pushing him back further and further into the downward spiral that he couldn’t stop? Maybe if he were able to serve a suspension around the team without playing could have set him straight while keeping him clean in a great place, around hard- working, ambitious NFL players who are consistently trying to become better as people and players.

This is what Jolly had to say about not being able to play football over the last few years and how it contributed to his addictions.

“It kept me numb. It kept me from losing my mind. Me losing football is like me losing a loved one or a bunch of loved ones at the same time … I didn't want to be around anyone," Jolly said. "I didn't want to answer no questions. And so I stayed in the room, just drunk, and watched.”

These are the words of a man who missed the game and, due to his mistakes, was pushed away. This ultimately could have led him back to Houston, back to his influences, and ultimately, his addictions. If there were anything the Packers and NFL could have done to help, did they do it? Did they care, or was he just seen as a “product” that was malfunctioning and simply got discarded?

Of course this is a grown man so he ultimately have had to make his own decisions. Time and time again, Jolly was indulging in such activities and never seemed to learn from his mistakes. Maybe the life down in Houston caught up with him. The drugs and the party life could have been a factor. Did his friends try to help him with his addictions, or did they just look at him as someone to pay their way into the clubs and pick up the tab for the party?

Did Johnny Jolly do it to himself? He obviously knew better when he got involved with the substances. Over time did he become a victim of addition? There are many questions to be answered. All we could hope for now is that Jolly will recover and come out a clean and rehabilitated man.

(Tony Atkins is the assistant sports editor of The UWM Post)

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