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Matter Of Honor: Green Bay Packers' Image Safe Despite Jolly Suspension

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Matter Of Honor: Green Bay Packers' Image Safe Despite Jolly Suspension
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

The bug that has been biting a lot of NFL franchises finally bit the Green Bay Packers today.

Defensive end Johnny Jolly was suspended by the NFL for the 2010 season and possibly beyond for violation of the league's substance abuse policy. Jolly is allowed to apply for reinstatement following Super Bowl XLV but with a pending trial, there is no guarantee Jolly will be allowed back next season.

Looking at the big picture, the Packers have been very fortunate to avoid a lot of the character issues that have been plaguing a lot of NFL teams in recent years.  The Packers are rarely-to-never mentioned when police blotter involving NFL players is made public.

Why is that?

First off is the long tradition of the Packers organization.  Packer players throughout NFL history from Bart Starr to Reggie White to Aaron Rodgers are or were considered some of the best people in the league.  It's an image Packer fans are proud of.

Second is the small town atmosphere of the city itself.  Having lived there for a year myself, I can tell you firsthand that it is much different from the other 31 cities that house NFL franchises. Unlike the booming metropolises of New York or Miami, there are not many late night temptations that sometimes lead to trouble for NFL players.

Third is the entire Cheesehead Nation and not just in Green Bay but around the world. Packer fans take tremendous pride in their team not only on the field but off of it as well. It has been written that the Packers and their fans share a bond unlike any other professional sports team. If you thought Pittsburgh was rough on Ben Roethlisberger, I think Green Bay would have been much worse. 

Oh, the fact that the fans own the team may have something to do with it as well.  As a shareholder myself, I can assure you I don't want a "Pacman" Jones on the Green Bay Packers.  President Mark Murphy would be flooded with phone calls by angry fans/owners if the team added a troublemaker.  Remember the debate about Randy Moss in 2007?

Fourth and perhaps most significant to the current roster is the process GM Ted Thompson and Coach Mike McCarthy go through in selecting players. Character is now nearly weighed as much as overall ability when deciding whether or not to bring a player on board.

Thompson often mentioned that when he is looking for players, he is looking for "Packer people."  

How would you define a "Packer person?"

Hard worker.  Fan friendly. Team player. Able to ride a kids bike to practice field. This year's first round draft pick, Bryan Bulaga, looks the part.

To be fair, McCarthy and Thompson have inherited a great system from past regimes, including the Ron Wolf/Mike Holmgren tag team.  Going even further back, Vince Lombardi preached character too and it has continued to carry the team more than 40 years since he left and will no doubt carry the team into the future. 

Now this is not to say the Packers are the picture perfect franchise that never has players facing suspensions.  Linebacker Nick Barnett was suspended for one game in 2008 for a violation of the personal conduct policy (he appealed successfully, however) and twice between 2001-2003 players were suspended four games for violation of the drug policy. Every team goes through this at one point or another.

Looking at the grand scheme of things, however, the Packers have been incredibly fortunate.   They have been blessed with tremendous leadership from both players and management and despite some rocky times on the field, things have been very smooth off of it.

While Jolly's suspension casts a bit of a fog over the Packers for 2010, this team has been through much more turbulent issues in the not-so-distant past. They are no strangers to adversity and should have no problem overcoming this distraction.

Unlike a fair amount of NFL teams, the Packers can get through this with their sense of honor still in one piece.

A proud franchise that will and should remain proud.  Just the way it should be.

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