30

June

Former Packers DL Jolly Receives Medical Clearance

Johnny Jolly

Jolly is one step closer to a potential return to the NFL

According to Tom Silverstein of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the doctors of former Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Johnny Jolly have given him the medical clearance to resume his football career.

I’m not writing this because I think Jolly will be back with the Packers or even to suggest that the Packers look into evaluating and clearing him.  Jolly’s story last season carried with it a tale of redemption and hope.  While his performance was anything but stellar, he was a good addition to the team and proved worthy of a roster spot.

Jolly received encouragement from his doctors earlier this year when the surgery was performed and a portion of his hip bone was grafted to help fuse his spine.  At that time, all Jolly could do was wait and see how it healed and if doctors would be confident enough to allow him to play football again.

Today, at least part of that wait is over.  Jolly’s clearance by his doctors is the first step to his potential return to the NFL and a sign that the procedure was a success, at least from a medical standpoint.

However, before any team would sign Jolly, their doctors also have to medically clear him.  Being cleared by his own doctors is one thing.  Being cleared by a team doctor is another and especially if we’re talking about the conservative medical staff in Green Bay.

Packers fans are unfortunately all too familiar with the process a player goes through with a serious neck injury.  We have seen some good and great former Packers players not return to the game following a neck injury.  The same players who if healthy, would have multiple suitors for their services and at a healthy rate of pay.  Former safety Nick Collins being a prime example.

Former Packers tight end Jermichael Finley is also still waiting for a team to medically clear him so he can resume his professional career.  As much as these men offer as players, teams remain cautious about the potential risks associated with a return to this very physical sport following such a serious injury.

As far as the Packers are concerned, the meaning of this news about Jolly today is about nothing more than being happy for a former team member.  As I mentioned earlier, the Packers have seen way more than their fair share of neck injuries to past players and to hear about one that may heal enough to return to the gridiron is welcome news on its own merit.

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11

March

Packers Free Agent Receives Medical Clearance

Packers DL Johnny Jolly

Free agent defensive lineman Johnny Jolly takes the first step to a return to football following neck surgery

Free agent defensive lineman Johnny Jolly sent out a tweet early Tuesday that indicated that he has been medically cleared to start working out following neck fusion surgery in early January.

Jolly needed the procedure to repair a bulging disc in his neck between the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae.  Currently, he is a free agent and as of 4pm EST today, is free to sign with any team.  No reports about any interest from the Packers, or any team, for that matter, have surfaced so far.

It is not yet known when Jolly would potentially receive clearance to return to football activity.  Whenever that is will likely be when we start to hear about teams’ interest in Jolly.

Here we are again, talking about a neck fusion procedure on a one-time Packers player who could potentially return, if he is cleared.  Besides Jolly, Jermichael Finley and Sean Richardson have both undergone neck fusion surgeries of their own in the past few years.

Finley has not yet been cleared to return to football activity but is expected to meet with interested teams soon.  Richardson returned late last season.  Former Packers safety Nick Collins had neck surgery in 2011 and is still trying to return to the game he loves.

By now, the Packers should be experts in the timeline and recovery of football players from such a procedure.  Still, every player is unique in how they heal.  Finley’s injury was to the same area of the neck as Collins.  The Packers felt it was too risky to bring Collins back and he was released shortly thereafter.  Jolly’s surgery was lower on his neck, which would seemingly increase his chances of being cleared and reduce his risk of re-injury.  This was the case with Richardson as well.

Jolly’s return to the NFL and the Packers last season was one of the bigger “feel good” stories of the 2013 season.  After missing three full seasons due to a suspension for drug use, Jolly cracked the Packers roster and provided valuable depth on the defensive line.

With the Packers potentially parting ways with some of their other defensive linemen, Jolly could become a viable option to bring back if he does, in fact, gain clearance to play again.  B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and C.J. Wilson are all currently unrestricted free agents and their return to the Packers is not certain.