Rooting for Johnny Jolly and Rehabilitation

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Johnny Jolly vs. Arizona Cardinals
Johnny Jolly displays some playmaking ability against the Arizona Cardinals in preseason action.

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.

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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  • Stroh

    Jolly had a really good nite IMO. Always liked his hustle and physical presence.

    “Jolly’s role seemed to be mostly limited to gap control and pushing the pocket back.”

    This has always been Jolly’s role. Even when he was at his best in ’09, he rarely was even asked to rush the QB. Most times he was on the field for a passing down, which was quite a bit since we didn’t use the 2 DL approach much the 1st year in the 34 D, he would push forward then kinda disengage and play the pass. That’s how he was able to have so many passes batted down. He was extremely good in that role. Jolly was never a guy that got sacks, but he would help collapse the pocket some, and he ALWAYS controlled his gaps. He was among the best 34 DE in ’09. I for one, would MUCH rather have Jolly who was a force on the #1 run D in ’09, than Wilson, who is supposed to be a good run Defender, but always on a poor run D!

  • Slim11

    If he continues to progress and get his conditioning back, he’ll be very valuable in the coming season. What I want to see is if he can control his impulsive behavior after the play. More than once, before his suspension, he made some mistakes after the whistle which cost the Packers field position. If he can control that part of his behavior, he’ll be a huge asset to the Packers’ defense.

    • Stroh

      I’ll live w/ some of the after whistle penalties if he brings the physical presence and aggressive attitude back to the D like he did in ’09.

  • https://www.facebook.com/pages/South-Carolina-Packer-Backers/249879711702394 barry talbert

    im wondering if it wouldnt be wise to let him rest a day or 2 at some point–being away from football and now after 3 yrs being asked for his muscles to respond daily might be asking for injury.9on second thought i think i read players have a day or 2 off now after game last night)Anyway i have added concern his muscles may breakdown.It isnt like coauches have a long history of how to handle this situation.

    • Chad Toporski

      From what I’ve heard they’ve been making sure to bring him along at gradual pace. I’m confident they understand the best way to help him back into shape.

  • Calabasa

    He turned himself into the police? Damn, thats a better trick than a drug addict making himself invisible! ;)

  • Gerrit

    I thought Jolly did pretty good. I sure missed his aggressive play and hope he makes the team. Most of all, I wish him well with the addiction problems and in his personal life. We’re happy he’s back and hope for a productive second career with the Pack.

  • http://allpackers.com nick perry

    Thank you for article on Jolly and addiction Chad. You’re absolutely right when you say “Addiction doesn’t go away”. It never leaves Chad, it just gets better. I’ve shared on another site my connection with a 12 step program. After 23 years it remains the most important part of my life. Johnny Jolly needs to understand this too. Johnny and I have a disease that is very patient. It talks to us in our own voice, and tells us we don’t have a disease, we can have just one, it’s alright, the doctor prescribed it. The disease doesn’t care who or where you come from, or what you do. I go to a meeting where we have a Surgeon, Dentist, Lawyers, Accountants, and a Doctor. My point is, the disease doesn’t discriminate. It doesn’t matter if your from Park Place, or a park bench. Unless you’re in the program, or have friends or family that are, it may be hard to understand. My doctors, my dentists, they all know that I can’t take anything. Now I’ve never had to have a surgery, not yet but I have had procedures where subscribing Vicodin is common and got through it just fine with Motrin 800. Like a diabetic needs insulin, a recovering addict needs a 12 step program and the support of those in the program, at least that’s the only thing that ever worked for me. The single most important thing in my daily life is not to use. This needs to be the single most important thing in Jolly’s life too. Not for Johnny Jolly the football player, but for Johnny Jolly the human being. Stay clean Johnny, and the rest will take care of itself.

    • steve cheez

      Well said, Nick P.

      • http://Allpackers.com Nick Perry

        Thank you Steve. I believe Jolly can do it too.

  • PatMc

    “Jolly was still continually driving his man backwards”

    I was at the game and was very pleased to watch Jolly push his way to the QB. From what I saw, Jolly makes the squad as a distributive player. He only needs to be a sub to give Pickett a break. 300 key plays during the season and it is worth keeping him.

    I think he will be used more once his conditioning is back but he put on a very good showing Friday night.

    I wish him and everyone suffering with addiction the best.

  • http://www.greenbaypackernation.com J.R. Augustine

    I have a weakness for underdogs. I really want to see Jolly turn things around. Before the game against Arizona I was honestly doubting he was going to earn a spot on the roster. After the game though, I’m feeling more confident he’s going to get a roster spot.

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