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Marijuana remains a hot topic in National Football League

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NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 28: Defensive tackle Terrance Knighton #94 of the Denver Broncos talks with the media during Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day at the Prudential Center on January 28, 2014 in Newark, New Jersey. Super Bowl XLVIII will be played between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos on February 2. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

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Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, 10:42 p.m.

NEWARK, N.J. — The NFL still isn't ready for the Denver Broncos to go on a different kind of Rocky Mountain high.

The two U.S. states that legalized recreational marijuana use are represented in the Super Bowl: Colorado's Broncos and Washington's Seattle Seahawks. The NFL's official stance remains that marijuana is banned under the league's substance abuse policy.

Former NFL player Nate Jackson estimated during an HBO Sports interview that 50 to 60 percent of players use marijuana for pain management. At least one player disagreed with that estimate Tuesday during Super Bowl media day, but NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last week raised the possibility that medical studies might show marijuana is helpful to players dealing with concussions.

In effect, the NFL's most controversial medical issue — the number of head injuries that occur to players and, often, badly affect them later in life — might become controversial still, even though far more Americans believe marijuana should be legalized than they did only a few years ago, based on multiple polls.

Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, a former Penn State player, would favor any such medical aid. Coach Pete Carroll is talking as if he would, too.

“I think anything that can make our job a little easier without sacrificing our health at the same time is good for the league, it's good for players,” Robinson said Tuesday. “I'm all for alternative forms of recovery and all those types of things — hyperbaric chambers, o-zoning, whatever it may be.”

Denver nose tackle Terrance Knighton — nicknamed Pot Roast because of his penchant for eating, and for no other reason — is more cautious. He also called Jackson's estimate “way too high, way too high.”

“I think with something like that, it may be helpful, but it is also something that can be abused,” Knighton said. “So I think that's why it's banned and that's why it's on the list, because it can be abused and it can backfire. It's a touchy subject.”

At least seven Seahawks players have been suspended since 2011 for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy. Seahawks cornerback Walter Thurmond drew a four-game ban in November for what KJR radio in Seattle reported was marijuana use.

Still, Carroll is eager to see what further research will show about marijuana and its possible positive effects on those with head injuries. It already is legal in some states for medical reasons, such as for cancer patients.

“Him (Goodell) making the expression that we need to follow the information and the research, absolutely, I'm in support of — regardless of what other stigmas may be involved,” Carroll said. “I think we have to do this because the world of medicine is trying to do the exact same thing and figure it out and they're coming to some conclusions.”

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.




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