Football painkillers are a major topic for the NFL and is a major point of controversy, among many others, that the league is contending with. The NFL has very strict rules on marijuana with its players but now that research is beginning to show that medical marijuana has some very real pain management benefits, the NFL is exploring it further.
The Players Association is working with the NFL but the two entities do not get along very well. The NFLPA took this opportunity to also discuss the drugs the NFL currently uses to help players manage pain thinking that the two topics went hand-in-hand. However, the NFL has made it clear that it is not interested in sharing that information. Many players have spoken out about the addictive nature and side-effects of the painkillers they take. Florida has three NFL teams, do you think your favorite player’s should have their well being taken care of before the NFL’s legal concerns?
The issue of how recreational marijuana should be sanctioned and how medicinal marijuana fits into the football painkiller lexicon has been much discussed over the past half-decade. And so it was that the NFL reached out to the NFLPA on July 6 to explore spending a piece of their “joint contribution amount” on studying the drug and how it should be treated in pain management.
Would you be surprised to hear that this just became the stage for their next fight?
The MMQB has obtained the correspondence between the two sides—comprised of four letters, two from NFL general counsel Jeff Pash to the PA, and two from union lawyer Ned Ehrlich back to Pash—and it’s largely what you’d expect. Last week, we said if you give these guys a walking-on-eggshells topic (like domestic violence) then these guys will just fight on the eggshells, and this is more proof of it.
And that is on the heels of comments made by union president/Bengals tackle Eric Winston on the potential damage another work stoppage could do. (Though I’ll agree with Pro Football Talk in that Winston’s “dies out in 20 years” quote was blown way out of proportion.)
But it’s still important, and there’s a lesson in here to be learned. That lesson is this: While the public has focused on the issue of traumatic brain injury and CTE, there’s another topic out there that’s just as important and potentially scary, and that’s how painkillers are affecting the NFL.
In the letters, the NFLPA responded to the NFL’s inquiry on doing more research by asking for comprehensive data on how teams are distributing painkillers to players. The NFL declined to furnish the NFLPA with that data.
“The request for prescription drug information in the last paragraph of your letter overlaps with the request for information sought in the NFLPA’s pending grievance on the subject,” Pash wrote. “To the extent that the grievance is pursued, we feel that it would be more appropriate to follow applicable procedures regarding discovery on these matters.”
Ehrlich’s responses said the union was “disappointed” and would pursue “all avenues to obtain this information.” And that’s where it was when I sat down with union chief DeMaurice Smith earlier this month. We’ll be rolling out a podcast of our full talk soon, but I can give you the overarching theme from that part of the discussion here pretty simply.
This isn’t going away. Why? A few of my takeaways: