While several players were not practicing during the Green Bay Packers' first round of OTAs this past week, most were at least present and involved in some small way with the events taking place. A few players were not, however, and the was one large absence: defensive end Johnny Jolly.
He had originally targeted May 23rd (today) for his return to Green Bay, according to Jolly himself on Twitter, but now he is expected to rejoin the team on Tuesday, May 28th. The reason for his absence last week appears to be valid, though, as it came to light yesterday that Jolly was completing a rehab program and that was the issue holding up his return. Now that he is finished, he has no outstanding commitments and can resume focusing solely on football.
According to that article from WBAY in Green Bay, the judge who originally sent him to prison had glowing praise for Jolly's progress:
I know I've seen a change, and I know your family has seen a change, and we are just so darn proud of you today just for the progress that you've made. I didn't know if we would see this day happen.
That is a great sign for Jolly's off-the-field progress, and we all hope that he stays clean, regardless of whether he remains a Packer. However, one thing that confused me when I first heard the story was why the NFL would reinstate him before the rehab program was complete. I was not alone in thinking that, as Brian Carriveau of Cheesehead TV tweeted essentially the same thing.
We can only speculate, but it seems that commissioner Roger Goodell was convinced that Jolly was fully on the right track even before he was formally finished with his rehab. Perhaps one of the qualifiers that Goodell put on Jolly was that even though he was reinstated by the league, he could not practice or work out with the team before his program was done. We may never know, but Jolly should be back on the field next week.
As for that on-field return, much will be made of how Jolly is used in practice and what kind of shape he is in. The Packers appear ready to let him compete for a roster position on the defensive line, but we will wait until we get reports on him from next week's open practice before making any guesses as to whether those efforts will ultimately be successful.