Green Bay, Wis. The NFL suspended Green Bay Packers defensive end Johnny Jolly without pay for the upcoming season and perhaps beyond for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy.
Jolly’s suspension begins immediately and will continue through at least the 2010 season. The Texas A&M product, who was entering his fifth season, will be eligible to apply for reinstatement after the Super Bowl.
Jolly is facing drug charges in Houston after his July 2008 arrest outside a club for possession of at least 200 grams of codeine. If convicted, Jolly faces up to 20 years in prison.
“Johnny is a good player that loves everything about the game of football,” Packers general manager Ted Thompson said in a statement. “We appreciate the contributions he has made to the Packers the past four seasons. His focus and priorities now lie elsewhere — our thoughts are with him during this difficult personal time.”
The Packers said team officials would have no further comment.
It’s a significant blow to a team that will go into the 2010 season expected to make a run at the playoffs and perhaps even the Super Bowl. A defensive end in Dom Capers’ 3-4 scheme, Jolly played a key role as the Packers allowed a league-low 83.3 yards rushing per game.
Perhaps anticipating the possibility of losing Jolly to a suspension, the Packers used a second-round draft pick on Purdue defensive lineman Mike Neal in April.
Jolly, 27, was a sixth-round draft pick in 2006 and worked his way into a starting role the past two seasons.
A restricted free agent, Jolly signed before an offseason deadline that would have allowed the team to reduce the amount of its tender offer.