PHOENIX -- If they had no interest in bringing back defensive tackle Johnny Jolly, the Green Bay Packers would have released him by now. Instead, they are intrigued enough by the possibility of adding a veteran defensive lineman that they restructured his contract and have kept him on their roster after the NFL reinstated him from a three-year suspension.
Does that mean the Packers will take Jolly into their offseason program and then to training camp? General manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy both stopped well short of that suggestion during interviews here at the NFL owners meeting.
In fact, neither man has spoken yet with Jolly since his reinstatement, and both acknowledged the challenge of playing after a three-season layoff. At the moment, Jolly's $715,000 scheduled salary is no drain on the Packers' salary cap and they wouldn't be obligated to pay him anything until Week 1 of the regular season.
Jolly last played in 2009 before the NFL suspended him indefinitely for violating its substance abuse policy. He has served six months in a Houston jail but was given 10 years of "shock probation" upon release.
"Johnny was a good football player for us," Thompson said. "But let's take this step by step. ... The first step is for everybody to sit down and talk, that sort of thing. We don't have any answers, I don't think anybody has all the answers. But we're going to talk to the man and find out all the stuff that we can find out in terms of his obligations and that sort of thing."
The Packers appear to have interest in improving their defensive line this offseason, having hosted free agent Chris Canty on a visit. Canty eventually signed with the Baltimore Ravens. In his prime, Jolly was a playmaking defensive end who was especially adept at knocking down passes at the line of scrimmage. He had 17 such breakups in four seasons, including 10 in 2009. But that came when he was 26. He is now 30.
McCarthy acknowledged his personal affinity for Jolly prior to the legal problems. He seems to be rooting for a success story while maintaining a realistic view about its likelihood.
"I think it's important to go through all that before we get into how we feel," McCarthy said. "Johnny, I've always considered him one of our guys, and everybody knows what he’s been through. It would be great if this opportunity works out. But as an organization, we have a responsibility to go through the process."