Everyone knows about Johnny Jolly. Embodying the rarest of rare commodities, the ball hawking defensive tackle, Jolly was one of the driving forces behind an excellent 2009 defense. He swatted ten passes at the line of scrimmage, picked off another, recovered one fumble, and recorded one sack. That's a pretty stellar season for a former sixth round pick.
But it was also a long time ago, as noted by ESPN's Kevin Seifert of the NFC North Blog. He wonders, like most of the rest of us, probably, why the Packers are even interested in bringing back a 30 year old defensive lineman who's best days were good but not great, and happened to take place three years ago. You know, since drug convictions tend to derail most careers.
It's a fair question, and for the most part Mike McCarthy gave Seifert a fair answer:
"The thing I've always appreciated about Johnny," McCarthy said, "and don't get me wrong because he's obviously a good football player, he was a starter for us and had his best year here his last year. But I always loved his toughness and passion. He has that 'it' when it comes to being a good teammate.
"He was respected in the locker room. He is different than most guys. Comes from a tough background and a tough upbringing, but you always knew where you stood with Johnny. I like direct people. I like the personality where there is no BS and you know where you stand. I always felt that he was an element that fit into our locker room and our culture. There are a lot of good people and good fits that don't fit in certain places. But he was good for us.
"We committed to him as a draft pick [in 2006] and I felt that it was just real important for us to keep our eyes wide open and watch and support him from afar. He got the first part done [court-ordered treatment], but the second part, this is a whole different challenge for him."
There's also the fact that this is virtually a zero risk move for the Packers. With a 90-man roster at this point, there's room for a couple gambles, and Jolly's contract situation means he's in Green Bay on the cheap. So really, other than his past history with the team, having him in camp is no different than any other low-tier rookie. He's taking up a roster spot for little or no money, and if something would happen to work out, great. If not, he'll get cut and the Packers will move on.
As far as what Jolly might have left, that's much more of a mixed bag. The Packers must assume he has something, otherwise he wouldn't be around. But for us mere mortals on the outside, all we really have to go on is 55 seconds of video from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
As far as I can see, Jolly looks a little bit heavy, but respectably quick out of a three point stance. And if you can glean anything more than that from that short of a video, you're in the wrong line of work, because you should probably be evaluating talent for an NFL team.
The point is, Jolly has talent. Or had talent. Whether or not he can still get it done remains to be seen. But it's a story worth watching, and I'll be rooting for him the whole way.