|The Miami Dolphins’ Ricky Williams was one of the many NFL players who like getting high — and was on the road to the Hall of Fame. But he entered an early “retirement” in 2004 after failing drug tests for marijuana.|
Does the National Football League’s 2010 draft class have a marijuana problem?
Multiple NFL personnel officials have reportedly told SI.com they are “concerned” about the “increased number” of the 2010 draft prospects who “have a history of marijuana use.” Many of the players have already acknowledged a failed drug test for cannabis in college, in their interviews with team representatives.
One personnel manager told SI.com’s Don Banks that “10 or 11” possible first-round draft picks have been “red-flagged for marijuana use” in college, an estimate also made by two teams’ head coaches.
Another NFL head coach guessed that “one-third” of the players on his team’s draft board had “some sort of history with marijuana use” and would thus require an “extra level of evaluation” as part of the pre-draft scouting procedure.
“Marijuana use is almost epidemic, with more guys having tested positive for marijuana at some point in their college background than I can ever remember,” said a team personnel specialist. “It’s almost as if we are having to figure out a new way to evaluate it as part of the character and background report, because it’s so prevalent.”
|Randy Moss, one of the NFL’s greatest receivers of all time, has been caught with, and admitted smoking, marijuana. “I have used… marijuana… since I’ve been in the league,” he told Bryant Gumbel on HBO’s Real Sports.|
”There are enough instances of it that it’s hard to know how to set your board,” the personnel man said. “You can’t throw out that many guys.”
Banks reports that players with histories of drug test failure in college aren’t automatically added to the NFL’s drug-testing program upon being drafted, but can be added at the league’s discretion, depending upon “the type of drug used, how recent the failed test occurred and if there were multiple failures.”
According to club officials, players are much more openly admitting marijuana use than in past years.
“The kids are admitting it much more now, and part of that is what they’ve been coached to do [by their agents],” one general manager said. “That’s seen as better than letting someone else put it out there for you and making you look like you were being evasive.”
One NFL head coach told SI.com that he has interviewed potential draft picks who didn’t even recognize their marijuana smoking equalled drug use according to the NFL.
“It’s pretty significant as a trend,” the head coach said. “But if you knocked everyone off your board who has experimented with weed, you’d lose about 20 percent of your board, not to mention disqualify a few recent Presidents.”
A few years back, if a player showed positive for marijuana in a college drug test, his name was quickly and automatically removed from consideration for draft by most NFL teams. Now, clubs are equivocating, trying to identify whether a player’s drug use could be classified as “experimentation,” or if he’s toking up every night.
“Even among those of us who didn’t [smoke pot], we had some friends who did and we didn’t judge them that harshly,” one team’s general manager said. “So for some, it’s a less damaging red flag for a player to have that on his record.”
Remarkably, even among the team officials who expressed the most concern about draft prospects who have failed drug tests, not a single one said they would automatically remove any such player from consideration.
“I know of one guy who told me he smoked with his mom,” one head coach said. “It was just something they did together. You have to find out something about the specifics and see if it was a habit, and or if it was experimenting in college.”
Maybe the fact that some of the NFL’s recent top draft picks have a “history of marijuana” yet are among the league’s top players has played a big part in softening attitudes toward pot.
Philadelphia receiver DeSean Jackson and Minnesota receiver/return man Percy Harvin, both pot users, have enjoyed a lot of success in the NFL.
“If you passed on Jackson and you passed on Harvin the past two years, maybe you can’t afford to just completely write off that kind of prospect every time, or you won’t have a job at some point because you won’t win any games,” one team executive said.
As pointed out at The Big Lead, NFL teams aren’t concerned that any mythical “destructive qualities” of marijuana will affect their players’ performance on the field. Their concern is that a player will test positive, and thus face suspension, hurting the team.
“…Why not focus on treatment more than draconian punishment?” asked The Big Lead. “That would let the league focus on real epidemics on players that are destructive, such as drunk driving and domestic violence.”
“The issue would better be described as an epidemic of guys getting caught,” wrote Mike Florio at NBC Sports’ Pro Football Talk. “Many football players smoke marijuana. Team sources have told us in the past that the situation becomes a problem only when a player’s taste for the wacky weed makes him unavailable to play, due to a suspension.”
So when will the NFL join the real world, where professional athletes of every kind use marijuana and still manage to excel in sports? Stay tuned.