Free agent defensive lineman Johnny Jolly sent out a tweet early Tuesday that indicated that he has been medically cleared to start working out following neck fusion surgery in early January.
Jolly needed the procedure to repair a bulging disc in his neck between the C-5 and C-6 vertebrae. Currently, he is a free agent and as of 4pm EST today, is free to sign with any team. No reports about any interest from the Packers, or any team, for that matter, have surfaced so far.
It is not yet known when Jolly would potentially receive clearance to return to football activity. Whenever that is will likely be when we start to hear about teams’ interest in Jolly.
Here we are again, talking about a neck fusion procedure on a one-time Packers player who could potentially return, if he is cleared. Besides Jolly, Jermichael Finley and Sean Richardson have both undergone neck fusion surgeries of their own in the past few years.
Finley has not yet been cleared to return to football activity but is expected to meet with interested teams soon. Richardson returned late last season. Former Packers safety Nick Collins had neck surgery in 2011 and is still trying to return to the game he loves.
By now, the Packers should be experts in the timeline and recovery of football players from such a procedure. Still, every player is unique in how they heal. Finley’s injury was to the same area of the neck as Collins. The Packers felt it was too risky to bring Collins back and he was released shortly thereafter. Jolly’s surgery was lower on his neck, which would seemingly increase his chances of being cleared and reduce his risk of re-injury. This was the case with Richardson as well.
Jolly’s return to the NFL and the Packers last season was one of the bigger “feel good” stories of the 2013 season. After missing three full seasons due to a suspension for drug use, Jolly cracked the Packers roster and provided valuable depth on the defensive line.
With the Packers potentially parting ways with some of their other defensive linemen, Jolly could become a viable option to bring back if he does, in fact, gain clearance to play again. B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett and C.J. Wilson are all currently unrestricted free agents and their return to the Packers is not certain.