I have never had first-hand experiences with drugs or drug abuse. I’m proud to say that not once in my life have I ever used tobacco products, smoked pot, or used illegal drugs. I’m also thankful to say that I am surrounded by family and friends who don’t abuse drugs or alcohol. So on a personal level, I don’t fully understand the struggles that drug addicts in PA, NJ or any state deal with on a daily basis; however, I do know about them. And I understand it’s not an easy battle to fight.
Johnny Jolly’s story is well known among Green Bay Packers fans and most NFL fans. He was drafted by the Packers in 2006 during the sixth round, and it didn’t take long for him to prove that he was a steal at that spot. Unfortunately, he was arrested for codeine possession on July 8, 2008. Charges were dismissed soon after, stemming from the police obtaining new drug measuring equipment, yet they were refiled in December 2009.
Two years after his initial arrest, with Jolly’s trial finally approaching, the NFL suspended him indefinitely. Jolly was arrested again on Match 25, 2011, for possession of and intent to distribute 600 grams of codeine. That November he was sentenced to six years of prison for violation of his probation.
Six months later, Johnny Jolly was granted early release with a1 0-year shock probation, and almost a year later he was granted reinstatement to the NFL. Now, three years after his suspension, he is back with the Green Bay Packers, rehabilitated and fighting for his career.
Fans have responded to his personal and legal problems with a wide mixture of opinion and support. There was plenty of initial frustration with him throwing his life and promising career away simply for drugs and “purple drank.” There was compassion by some for his addiction, because they knew it’s not an easy thing to deal with. There was rejection by those who felt Jolly wasn’t taking responsibility for his actions, especially after the second arrest.
But now there seems to be a lot of growing support for his rehabilitation and a spot on the team.
FIGHTING DRUG ADDICTION
One of the most eye-opening experiences I’ve had in regards to drug addiction (and the people who struggle with it) was listening to a podcast series by Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes, titled Jay And Silent Bob Get Old.
For those who don’t know, Kevin Smith is, among other things, a filmmaker that has had wide cult success. From his first film “Clerks” (1994) to “Dogma” (1999) and even “Zack and Miri Make a Porno” (2008), Smith has experienced a range of success with his style of writing and directing. He was even at the center of a Southwest Airlines incident, where he was asked to leave the plan due to his size.
But the real story here is Jason Mewes. He grew up with Kevin Smith in New Jersey, and their character duo of “Jay and Silent Bob” made a number of appearances in Smith’s first five movies. But where Smith has lived a life of success and happiness in connection to his career, Mewes has lived a life of drug addiction and severe personal problems.
Mewes started using heroin not long after his appearance in “Mallrats,” quickly becoming addicted. Smith unsuccessfully entered him into drug rehab in 1997, and during the filming of “Dogma,” Mewes became addicted to OxyContin when his mother used it to ease his heroin withdrawal symptoms.
In 1999, Jason Mewes was arrested for heroin possession, failed to appear in court, and eventually turned himself into the police in 2003. In 2006, Mewes finally announced his sobriety, but those past three years put a lot of strain on his life and his relationships. He was in and out of rehab and struggling to find work, especially when his friend Kevin Smith turned him away for not being able to get his life together.
Mewes eventually got married in 2009, and his wife has become a large part of his support system. Unfortunately, he suffered a relapse that year after the doctors gave him painkillers to relieve the effects of surgery. He even went so far as to hide his relapse from his wife, until the bubble eventually burst and Mewes had to go back through rehabilitation.
In August 2013, Kevin Smith started Jay and Silent Bob Get Old as part of his “SModcast” series of podcasts. Through one-on-one sessions with Jason Mewes, Smith used the podcast to not only relate the story and effects of Mewes’ drug addiction, but also as a support system (or “weekly intervention”) for Mewes to maintain his sobriety by talking about it.
I relate this story to you, the reader, because it is something that really opened my mind about the truth behind drug addiction. Through listening to Jason Mewes’ recount his personal struggles, I have learned that addiction is not something that goes away easily. In fact, in never does go away. Rehabilitation is an ongoing process and a daily struggle.
To me, that is what makes Johnny Jolly’s success with the Packers so important . . . It’s also what makes it a little dangerous.
Based on interviews and accounts from other players, it’s clear that Jolly has a vision for his future, which is an important part of staying clean. “You don’t want to ever let your peers down,” Jolly said earlier in training camp, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I felt like I let my team down before; I don’t want to do that again. I let my family down before, I let myself down before, and I’m just trying not to go back down that road.”
Even if he doesn’t make the team, Jolly has a Plan B to work towards, striving to remain a better person.
One thing, though, that I did learn from Jason Mewes’ struggles with OxyContin is that relapse can occur from even the most innocent use of prescribed drugs. Mewes’ last relapse in 2009 was due to a doctor’s prescription for post-surgery pain. What, then, are Johnny Jolly’s options for the aches, pains, and minor injuries that football players constantly deal with? It’s not going to be an easy road for him, and while football will provide him with a support system, it can also provide him an opportunity for relapse.
SHAKING OFF THE RUST
Friday’s preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals was the first time we’ve had the chance to see Johnny Jolly perform in game action. Those who have been fortunate enough to attend training camp practices have seen his work in that regard, but the rest of use now have some film to use when making our own evaluations of his progress after three years away from football.
We’ve been hearing from the media that Jolly has been doing relatively well in training camp. He’s been demonstrating a quick return to the technique of a defensive lineman, though he’s been struggling with endurance and conditioning.
When I went back to review the game tape, I took the time to review and analyze each of Jolly’s plays. He played most of the defensive snaps during the second, third, and fourth quarters. His time was spent at left defensive end in the base 3-4 defense, as well as defensive tackle in the nickel subpackages. Aside from some “jet” calls where he could rush the passer, Jolly’s role seemed to be mostly limited to gap control and pushing the pocket back.
From what I saw, Jolly is quickly shaking off the rust. He showed an ability to maintain control of his man and, by extension, the gaps on either side. In passing situations, he would benefit from a little more push, but Jolly was still continually driving his man backwards. There was also some relentlessness to Jolly’s play. He finished well and continually pursued the ball right up until the whistle, never giving less than 100%.
What’s more, I enjoyed watching the spin move that Jolly could put on the offensive linemen. He used it once to great success in a pass rush (though the quarterback ended up eluding his tackle), but he also used it a few other times quite effectively to disengage from blockers to attack and running lane or pursue the ball carrier. To top it all off, this spin move always looked controlled. They weren’t wild movements of frustration, but rather a result of focus, strategy, and technique.
I don’t know about anyone else, but Johnny Jolly gave me a lot of hope on Friday night. He’s definitely moving in the right direction, and I can tell that his motivation is high.
Jolly is definitely someone I am going to be rooting for this offseason. I am rooting for him to be a playmaker once again on this defense. Even more, though, I am rooting for him to maintain his rehabilitation and for him to be successful on a personal level. This is a big turning point in Jolly’s life . . . I hope he makes the best of it.——————Follow @ChadToporski