Former NFL player on painkiller addiction: Marijuana a 'godsend,' NFL should allow it

Former NFL offensive lineman Ryan O'Callaghan revealed in June that he had always planned to commit suicide after his playing career because, as Outsports.com reported at the time, "he had decided many years ago that he would never -- could never -- live life as an openly gay man."

O'Callaghan told Outsports that, "I was abusing painkillers, no question. It helped with the pain of the injuries, and with the pain of being gay. I just didn't worry about being gay when I took the Vicodin. I just didn't worry."

The Chiefs helped convinced O'Callaghan not to commit suicide. His NFL career ended in 2010, but O'Callaghan says he still uses marijuana to manage his pain from his playing days. He also says the NFL should change its policy on allowing players to use the drug.

"For people like me, marijuana is a godsend because you don't want to take these pills,'' O'Callaghan, 33, told USAToday.com's Josh Peter. "Marijuana is not addicting. People who say that have never smoked it. I have an addictive personality. It's not addictive."

O'Callaghan says the NFL "know[s] it's harmless, and it's not performance enhancing," adding, "I've known guys who've played stoned. Absolutely. The NFL can be stressful and there's not a lot you can do. Smoking a joint's pretty harmless. It really is. Don't tell the Attorney General that, but it's very harmless."

Earlier this month, the NFL reportedly sent a letter to the NFL Players Association offering to work together on a study that looks into the use of marijuana as a pain-management tool.

Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones reportedly advocated recently for the league to drop its ban on marijuana. And Stephen Jones, who acts as the Cowboys' executive vice president and COO, stated that the system "needs to be heavily scrutinized." 

Meanwhile, former player and current ESPN analyst Randy Moss said, "I think the NFL just needs to loosen up the rules and let everybody live." And just-retired tackle Eugene Monroe has been advocating for the league to study the effects of marijuana as a pain-manager for some time.

But as recently as April, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell maintained a strong stance against making any changes to the league's marijuana policy. 

"I think you still have to look at a lot of aspects of marijuana use," Goodell said at the time. "Is it something that can be negative to the health of our players? You're ingesting smoke, so that's not usually a positive thing. It does have an addictive nature. There are a lot of compounds in marijuana that might not be healthy for players long-term. It's not as simple as someone just wants to feel better after a game. We really want to help our players ... but I want to make sure the negative consequences aren't something that we'll be held accountable for years down the road." 

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

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