Steelers safety Ryan Clark on marijuana: “I know guys on my team who smoke.”


Ryan Clark quickly went from “the guy who can’t play at altitude” to “the guy who’s defending marijuana.”

He tweeted this Thursday morning:


Clark made an important distinction to say he doesn’t smoke himself, admitting that would probably draw a ton of fire from the league, his own team and the city he’s played in for the last seven years.

Pittsburgh has traditionally been a conservative town in a conservative state, but small scale change could be in the future.

“Pennsylvania, meantime, recently held hearings to discuss the possible legalization of medical marijuana,” according to Walter Perez of Philadelphia’s Action News Six.

The Philadelphia police commissioner isn’t exactly thrilled with the idea, so clearly it isn’t a clear-cut issue.

It’s pretty clear where the NFL stands on the issue, however.

He made the league’s position clear at his pre-Super Bowl news conference, according to ESPN:

“It is still an illegal substance on a national basis,” Goodell said. “It’s something that is part of the collective bargaining agreement with the players. It is questionable as to the positive impacts, in the face of the very strong evidence of the negative effects, including addictions and other issues.

“We’ll continue to follow the medicine. Our experts right now are not indicating that we should change our policy in any way. We are not actively considering that at this point in time. But if it goes down the road sometime, that’s something that we would never take off the table.”

Again, little wiggle room, which is especially odd given Goodell’s hard stance regarding player safety.

There’s still a general climate of distrust and opposition in higher league and media circles, as evidenced by Mark Brunell’s comments during Sportscenter:

“There’s really no place for marijuana in the NFL,” hesaid. “It is harmful. It hurts brain function. It hurts brain development. Marijuana can ruin lives. I’m very much against it.”

That may not matter.

Based on Clark’s comments and what Antonio Cromartie said Wednesday:

“They just need to let it go. They need to go ahead and say, ‘Ya’ll go ahead, smoke it, do what you need to do,” Cromartie said.

It seems like that’s already the case, given that Clark said some of his teammates smoke primarily because, “A lot of it is stress relief. A lot of it is pain and medication. Guys feel like, ‘If I can do this, it keeps me away from maybe Vicodin, it keeps me away from pain prescription drugs and things that guys get addicted to. Guys look at this as a more natural way to heal themselves, to stress relieve and also to medicate themselves for pain. Guys are still going to do it.”

When you put it that way, it makes perfect sense.

Football is a violent game made more dangerous by players becoming bigger, stronger and faster because of recent health science advancements (and depending on who you talk to, potentially chemical help).

Those huge bodies collide at massive speeds that cause damage to said bodies.

Players need to be able to recover both physically and mentally.

Clearly marijuana helps them to do that and seems to have less risk associated with addiction than traditional painkillers, which haven’t been kind to former NFL players.

Steelers legend Mike Webster died at age 50 largely from the collective wear and tear his body had taken over the course of 16 years.

He struggled with an addiction to painkillers for most of his post-football life.

Iron Mike probably wasn’t the type of guy to use marijuana to offset pain, but he should at least be afforded the opportunity.

If Roger Goodell is going to advocate for an 18-game schedule amidst claims of concern for player safety, the league should be open to alternative methods of pain and stress relief.

There’s a lot of cultural dialogue that surrounds marijuana.

“It’s for slackers.”

“It’s a gateway drug.”

“There’s a reason it’s illegal.”

I completely understand the concern about mind-altering substances, but I live in Colorado and the whole state hasn’t descended into anarchy after marijuana was legalized.

Mostly I don’t notice the changes.

People make their own private decisions in their own private homes.

The NFL could let players and their physicians manage their pain in the same way.

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