Tis NOT the season to be Jolly.
Johnny Jolly, to be precise. The Green Bay Packers defensive end was suspended today by the NFL for the 2010 season reportedly for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Jolly will not be eligible to apply for reinstatement until after Super Bowl XLV concludes. It is still possible Jolly could miss more time even after this season concludes.
What makes this suspension strange is the fact that it seems like it is NOT related to Jolly's pending drug possession trial. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has made no qualms with suspending players in trouble, regardless of if they have been convicted or not. For evidence of this, see: Roethlisberger, Benjamin.
That said, this suspension of Johnny Jolly seems incredibly harsh especially with a very strong possibility that he could miss time beyond this season.
Here are five reasons why the NFL overdid it with this decision:
1. Michael Vick killed dogs, Donte Stallworth killed people. Jolly harmed no one but himself.
I am not trying to glorify what Jolly did. Drugs are a very serious issue and people who use them need to fight their personal demons in some other way. Jolly is at least guilty of nothing else but stupidity.
That said, what Vick and Stallworth did is much worse. Vick will never be forgiven by a lot of people and Stallworth should still be sitting in prison for killing another. While Jolly's issue is still severe as he is harming himself, he is not a threat to others as Vick and Stallworth were.
Goodell has made a point that playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right. I agree with that, but the league also needs to make sure that removing that privilege for an entire year is only reserved for the most heinous acts.
2. Jolly faced no prior league sanctions
While has been waiting trial on drug charges stemming from an arrest in 2008, Jolly faced no action by either the Packers or the NFL. Packers coach Mike McCarthy gave him time off from OTAs to get his legal situation straightened out and the organization as a whole as been good to Jolly despite the 20 year sentence he could be facing if convicted.
In situations like this, usually the league gives a shot across the bow and gives the player a four game suspension. Jolly had the whole book thrown at him, plus the paperback edition.
There is a lot about this situation that we don't know about, but if it were really as serious a situation to legitimately call for a full year suspension, the reason would have leaked by now.
3. Jolly has not been convicted
Obviously, this argument holds very little weight with Goodell. Roethlistberger was not indicted and Adam Pacman Jones was not even arrested. Goodell makes the point that even being in a situation to get in trouble is not becoming of an NFL player.
That point has its merits. Roethlisberger obviously didn't learn from his first investigation and Jones was a disaster all together.
Jolly isn't in that boat. He had his one run in with the drug charges and has largely stayed out of trouble ever since or at least up until this announcement today. His only another issue came up involving advertisements he had put out for a party at a Houston night club.
4. Codeine is not cocaine
Don't get me wrong, any kind of drug addiction or misuse is a very serious issue. But when a player caught using performance enhancing drugs (which to me is cheating) is given a four game suspension yet a player using a controlled substance gets suspended an entire year?
Give me a break, NFL. Be consistent.
Imagine if this had been 1996. The reigning NFL MVP, Brett Favre, in theory would have been benched the entire year. That would have caused much more alarm in my opinion.
5. Jolly has a good support system around him
The Packers have handled this situation with an incredible amount of class. McCarthy giving him time off of a minicamp to fix this issue speaks volumes of the amount of faith the organization has in Jolly as a person.
Teammates have offered their support saying that something like this should change someone and that they had absolute faith he would get his life straightened out.
Compare this to other teams. The Steelers (rightfully) were outraged by what Roethlisberger had done and Atlanta was the same with Vick. That is not to say the organizations didn't support their players, but rather they initially offered their support but were rebuked by the players.
The bottom line is that one year suspensions by the NFL are rarely overturned. Jolly could still go through the appeal process but pending the outcome of his drug trial whenever it actually occurs, Jolly likely would still be looking at some suspension by the NFL.
The best thing that could come out of this is that Jolly becomes a better person and learns from his mistakes and the NFL thinks a little harder about sitting someone for an entire year when football would actually help the player in question.
Jolly needs the distraction. Sitting him an entire season risks his attention being diverted to less savory activities.
If that should happen, then league should feel pretty dumb.