Jacksonville Jaguars defensive lineman Marcellus Wiley, right, tries to take down New England Patriots wide receiver Andre Davis during a wild-card playoff game Jan. 7, 2006. Wiley says players use marijuana "to cope with the pain.” He played defensive line in the league for 10 seasons. “They are leaning on it to cope with the anxiety of the game.” (Stephan Savoia, Associated Press file)

Graphic: NFL’s pot puzzle amid changing national perspective

Marijuana is casting an ever-thickening haze across NFL locker rooms, and it’s not simply because more players are using it.

As attitudes toward the drug soften, and science slowly teases out marijuana’s possible benefits for concussions and other injuries, the NFL is reaching a critical point in navigating its tenuous relationship with what is recognized as the analgesic of choice for many of its players.

“It’s not, let’s go smoke a joint,” retired NFL defensive lineman Marvin Washington said. “It’s, what if you could take something that helps you heal faster from a concussion, that prevents your equilibrium from being off for two weeks and your eyesight for being off for four weeks?”

One challenge the NFL faces is how to bring marijuana into the game as a pain reliever without condoning its use as a recreational drug. And facing a lawsuit filed on behalf of hundreds of former players complaining about the effects of prescription painkillers they say were pushed on them by team trainers and doctors, the NFL is looking for other ways to help players deal with the pain from a violent game.

Read the rest of the report on pot in the NFL >>