By John Boyle
Maybe you’ve heard the jokes, something along the lines of, Smoke-a-Bowl XLVIII, but all giggling, and munchies, aside, marijuana is a serious topic in the buildup to this year’s Super Bowl. First off, both teams involved, the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos, happen to play in states that recently legalized recreational use of the drug. Secondly, the Seahawks have had two players, Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond, suspended this season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, reportedly for marijuana use. Thirdly, and most importantly, there is a growing discussion about whether or not the NFL should allow marijuana use for medical purposes.
Former players have gone on record saying marijuana use helped them ease physical pain and also deal with the stress of the job. There have also been studies looking into whether marijuana can help the brain heal after head trauma, something that, if proven true, could cause the league to reconsider its stance on the drug.
“We will follow medicine, and if they determine this could be a proper usage in any context, we will consider that,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said at a news conference last week in New York. “Our medical experts are not saying that right now.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll was asked about that topic Monday, and said that he wants to see the NFL do what’s best for players, regardless of what stigmas might be associated with marijuana.
“First off, I can’t speak for anybody else in that regard,” he said. “We have to continue to explore and compete to find ways that are going to make our game a better game and take care of our players in the best way possible. The fact that it’s in the world of medicine is obviously something the Commissioner realizes and him making the expression that we need to follow the information and the research absolutely I’m in support of. Regardless of what other stigmas may be involved, I think we have to do this because the world of medicine is trying to do the exact same thing and figure it out and they’re coming to some conclusions. I can only speak for our coaches and we haven’t debated the thought yet.”
Fullback Michael Robinson, who has a unique perspective on the topic of pain treatment, agrees that marijuana should be considered if it can help players. Robinson missed the start of this season, and for a while feared much more than football was at risk, because of a legal pain killer that was prescribed by his team. Robison was taking Indocin during the preseason, and that anti-inflammatory, combined with the fullback being dehydrated, sent Robinson to the hospital multiple times. After doctors were initially unable to figure out what was wrong with Robinson, it was discovered on a return trip that his kidney and liver were shutting down.
“I think anything that can make our job a little easier without sacrificing our health at the same time is good for the league, it’s good for players,” he said. “I’m all for alternative forms of recovery and all those types of things – hyperbaric chambers, o-zoning, whatever it may be. So, I’m all for it. Whatever can help the player, I’m for.”
For now, however, marijuana remains a banned substance in the NFL, regardless of what benefits it may provide, and regardless of whether a particular state legalized it, so players know they still need to steer clear of it or face the consequences.
“I know right now they are trying to do whatever they can to help players post-career, and they’re looking into everything,” Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton told reporters. “But it’s illegal right now and it’s something against the rules, so I stay away from that.”
“I think with something like that, it may be helpful, but it is also something that can be abused. So I think that’s why it’s banned and that’s why it’s on the list, because it can be abused and it can backfire. It’s a touchy subject, but whatever is best, they’ll figure it out. Until then, I’m going to follow the rules.”