Former NFL player and coach Mike Ditka arrives at the 5th annual NFL Honors at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium on Feb. 6, 2016, in San Francisco. (Jordan Strauss, Invision/AP)

Mike Ditka knew his Chicago Bears players got high, says Jim McMahon

As coach of the Super Bowl-winning Chicago Bears, Mike Ditka referred to his players as 'you pot smokers,' says Jim McMahon

Legendary NFL coach Mike Ditka knew that some of his Chicago Bears players, including star quarterback Jim McMahon, used marijuana throughout the team’s 1980s heyday, McMahon said recently.

McMahon, a first-round draft pick and two-time Super Bowl champion, was speaking Sunday at the Southwest Cannabis Conference and Expo in Fort Worth, Texas, when he revealed the news that his former coach knew all about he and his teammates’ penchant for pot.

Mike Ditka apparently joked about his players’ cannabis use, according to McMahon.

“Mike Ditka would say, ‘Oh, all you guys, you pot smokers,’ That’s what he’d call us,” McMahon said at the event, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “‘You pot smokers.’ We’d say, ‘It’s better than being drunk out here. We’re still functioning.’ ”

Marijuana use in the NFL is still banned, and will remain so for the foreseeable future, according to comments made by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in February.

“It’s an NFL policy and we believe it’s the correct policy, for now, in the best interest of our players and the long-term health of our players,” Goodell said. “I don’t foresee a change in that clearly in the short term, but we’ll continue to be in touch with our medical personnel. If that changes, we’ll discuss it.”

The outspoken, often-bratty McMahon has been back in the news lately after telling The Chicago Tribune about his post-football injuries — including early onset dementia, depression, memory loss, severe headaches and problems with his vision and speech.

McMahon was averaging 100 Percocet pills every month to deal with the pains and aches — but then he discovered medical marijuana, which helped him kick the pills and deal with his issues more naturally, The Tribune reported.

“(The painkillers) were doing more harm than good,” McMahon told The Tribune. “This medical marijuana has been a godsend. It relieves me of the pain — or thinking about it, anyway.”

As unintentional painkiller deaths remain a significant concern in the United States, the theory that cannabis could legitimately replace opioids is gaining traction. The Journal of the American Medical Association says that marijuana’s painkilling abilities are scientifically legitimate. And compared with more than 47,000 overdose deaths from other drugs in 2014, cannabis users won’t die from marijuana alone, says the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

People trying cannabis, which has a 9 percent addiction rating, are less likely to develop an addiction to it than consumers of other substances including heroin (23 percent), nicotine (32 percent), cocaine (17 percent) and alcohol (15 percent), according to a World Health Organization drug adviser. And a different JAMA study concluded that “states that implemented medical marijuana laws appear to have lower annual opioid analgesic overdose death rates (both from prescription painkillers and illicit drugs such as heroin) than states without such laws.”

In February, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to have another look at medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain treatment.

McMahon shared the same sentiment in a video shot by The Tribune.

“With my chronic pain, all my surgeries that I’ve had, the arthritis, it’s getting me through the day,” McMahon said in the video. “It’s helped so many people, epileptics, cancer patients … It helps me every day. I use it every day, and it gets me through the day. I feel a heck of a lot better than I did when I used to have to take all those pain pills.”