What percentage of NFL players use marijuana? It’s impossible to say, but former defensive tackle Tank Johnson has an estimate.
“Seventy to eighty percent,” Johnson told Fusion’s chief cannabis correspondent Ryan Nerz. (Mobile users can see the video here.) “I hate to say that as if it’s a bad thing, but I think that would be about accurate.” Johnson played for the Chicago Bears, Dallas Cowboys and Cincinnati Bengals from 2004-10.
While league commissioner Roger Goodell has said the National Football League would “consider” allowing athletes to use medical marijuana if doctors said it would help treat head injuries, cannabis is still part of the league’s anti-drug policy.
The above video — which includes interviews with a number of NFL players and alums, including Denver Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders — presents a telling story of the prevalence of drugs in professional sports.
“The drug isn’t for me,” Sanders told Fusion, “but honestly … I know a lot of people and for them it allows them to focus, it allows them to go about their day from an anxiety standpoint — it relieves anxiety and things of that sort. If the drug is helping you, I honestly believe that they should legalize it.”
It’s a medical and recreational issue, said Johnson.
“It’s a good way to relax, enjoy yourself and have a good time,” Johnson said. “So I think that’s why guys gravitate toward the green … Managing and tolerating your pain is essentially how you make your money in this game. The NFL is all about pain management.”
Cornerback Walter Thurmond said the league’s position on prescription painkillers points to an entirely different set of problems: “I remember getting double Percocets, and they put me in a state where I’m having nightmares at night — that’s how crazy it was.”
Adds Johnson: “I’ve seen guys get epidurals, what women take to have children, just to play in a football game.”