Johnny Jolly Suspension and the NFL Drug Problem

Brian DiTullioSenior Writer IJuly 17, 2010

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 03:  Johnny Jolly #97 of the Green Bay Packers looks on from the bench against the Arizona Cardinals at University of Phoenix Stadium on January 3, 2010 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images)
Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images

The league began handing out more drug suspensions on Friday as Green Bay Packers defensive end Johnny Jolly was suspended for the entire 2010 season.

Jolly was arrested for illegal possession of codeine outside a Houston nightclub in 2008. He faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Jolly isn't the only NFL player charged with possessing codeine, which seems to be becoming the new drug of choice for professional athletes.

Former Oakland Raiders quarterback JaMarcus Russell also has been charged with codeine syrup possession this month in Atlanta. His future is uncertain as he is becoming one of the biggest draft busts in NFL history after being cut from the Raiders in May.

While the NFL's attempts at cracking down on the use of performance-enhancing drugs appears to have borne fruit, with Texans linebacker Brian Cushing the highest profile player to be suspended for that offense, the league seems to still be losing the battle with off-field drug issues.

With two players now facing prosecution for codeine possession, the NFL once again has to revise how it approaches drug issues for their players.

It's no longer the "old favorites" marijuana, cocaine and heroin; now it's codeine.

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But that doesn't mean the old standbys still aren't showing up.

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Leroy Hill will miss the 2010 season opener and two game checks because of a 2009 marijuana charge.

Hill also is facing possible prosecution for his arrest in a Seattle suburb in April because of a domestic violence investigation. There should be little doubt that this incident played into the suspension and loss of pay.

Hill isn't the only Seahawk facing drug charges with safety Kevin Ellison charged with felony possession of Vicodin in Los Angeles back in May.

And that's just the tip of the iceberg.

The list of players in trouble with the law over drug charges would take all day to run down, and that's the problem the NFL has been trying to combat for years.

The on-field punishment these players take often leads to off-field issues, especially involving painkillers. The proposal to increase the regular season to 18 games won't do anything to help this problem, either.

With the big money comes big-time problems like this for many NFL players and, despite efforts from the league to educate the players, the instances of players getting into trouble with the law remains far too high.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has devoted a lot of his energy into enforcing the league's substance abuse policy, but to little success since it seems the overall number of suspensions remains about the same.

The latest rounds of suspensions are just further proof that some people never learn, and if there is a better way of getting through to the players, no one has discovered it yet.