Jonny Jolly is one of the few bright spots in the NFL of a player who was suspended from the league but managed to make a comeback; in 2008 Jolly was arrested for selling codeine, a control opiate intended to be used typically as a cough suppressant but in this case was being used to make purple drank, a recreational drug. Jolly was suspended indefinitely and was caught again for attempting to sell codeine again in 2011 and was subsequently sentenced and sent to jail, where he was granted an early release with shock probation.
For most players, no matter how talented, the story ends here. Teams, rightfully wary of having to deal with more negative press and a out of shape, older player who hasn’t been practicing for years would likely have just released the player and gone about their business. However the Packers gave Jolly a shot and were rewarded with a very good season in 2013; while Jolly was never a great player at any point in his career, he definitely was a good player and while he might never play again after suffering a neck injury, at least he can exit the game knowing that he didn’t waste his opportunity.
Throughout all of this, Aaron Rodgers offered up an interesting take; yes Jolly had screwed up, but was suspending and barring him from the Packers organization really the best course of action?
“I think the commissioner’s done a great job of cleaning up some of the stuff in the league. That said, if you take a guy away from his support system … I don’t think that’s helping.” – Aaron Rodgers on Johnny Jolly, ESPN Milwaukee
Rodgers isn’t alone in this mentality either.
“It’s a big blow to us. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t, it’s not a big blow. But the thing is, we have to rally around him. I know all the things people say — ‘he should be cut, he should be this’ — he shouldn’t. He’s a 23-year-old kid. He made some mistakes. A lot of people’s 20-year-old sons make mistakes. We have to help him, and that’s the bottom line. We have to help him collectively. It’s not going be one person that helps him, it’s not going to be two people that help him. I’m talking about from the front office, the coaching staff, the players and his whole family. We have to help him not only for football purposes, but for life purposes to get his life in order.” – Donte Whitner on Josh Gordon, SirusXM NFL Radio