Green Bay Packers defensive end Johnny Jolly was placed on the injured reserve in late December after injuring his neck, as he suffered a bulging disc at the C-5 vertebrae during the team’s Week 15 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Jolly’s injury was initially deemed to a shoulder injury, but further testing revealed the true nature of the veteran DE’s ailment.
According to ESPN NFL Nation’s Rob Demovsky, the 31-year-old Texas A&M product expects to play this year and could even be cleared for contact before free agency starts. While that could be a stretch, the fact that it’s possible for Jolly to be cleared before free agency begins makes it apparent that the Packers will get him back before the season starts. He underwent surgery last month to repair the bulging disc, and his agent Jack Bechta told Demovsky that Jolly is already doing “light exercises”.
In 13 games last season, Jolly recorded 21 tackles and a sack, and his comeback story will certainly continue in 2014. It sounds like he is making good progress, and he has another MRI scheduled for the 11th of March, which is the first day of free agency. It will be interesting to see if he’s able to get a clean bill of health then, but it’s clear that his lower neck injury won’t keep him out of action this upcoming season.
The question remains, who will he play for this season? As an impending free agent who could hit the open market without clearance, Jolly doesn’t have many options. It looks like there’s optimism that the Packers will re-sign him, but they are also willing to let Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji go. All three of these veteran defensive linemen are in flux right now, so it will be interesting to see what Ted Thompson’s approach is.