The Packers' highly regarded defense suffered a potentially major blow Friday with the news that the NFL has suspended fifth-year DE Johnny Jolly indefinitely without pay for violating the league's substance-abuse policy
Jolly's suspension begins immediately and will continue through at least the 2010 season. He will be eligible to apply for reinstatement following Super Bowl XLV.
"Johnny is a good player that loves everything about the game of football," Packers GM Ted Thompson said a team release. "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 status of Jolly, who belatedly signed his restricted free agent tender, had been clouded by a pending trial at the end of the month for felonious possession of codeine. Presumably with that in mind, the Packers began the offseason with veteran Ryan Pickett, who was previously the starting nose tackle, shifting to the starting DLE position manned by Jolly last season, and 2009 first-round draft pick B.J. Raji moving into the starting NT role.
Jolly was a consistent force at the point of attack in 2009 and a key factor in the Packers' league-leading run defense. He led the team's defensive linemen with 39 tackles and set a single-season record for a D-lineman with 11 passes defended (according to team statistics).
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