Pubdate: Fri, 22 Jul 2016
Source: New York Times (NY)
Copyright: 2016 The New York Times Company
Author: Ken Belson


Eugene Monroe, a veteran offensive tackle who became the first active 
N.F.L. player to publicly ask the league to let players use medical 
marijuana, will retire after seven seasons.

In recent years, many retired players have urged the league to lift 
the ban on the use of medical marijuana. In March, Monroe echoed 
those calls, saying that medical marijuana is safer and healthier 
than the prescription painkillers that teams routinely give players.

Monroe's views were not seconded by officials of his team, the 
Baltimore Ravens, including Coach John Harbaugh. When Monroe was 
released by the Ravens in June, he said his advocacy for medical 
marijuana might have played a role.

A team spokesman declined to say whether Monroe's stance on medical 
marijuana had contributed to his release.

Several teams have since contacted Monroe, who said he had turned 
down the offers. He said he was leaving the game because of mounting 
injuries and a fear that they would become debilitating if he 
continued to play.

"It is a very demanding sport on your body, and it's taken a toll on 
me time and time again," Monroe said, adding that he had damaged both 
his knees, had surgery on one of his shoulders and had an array of 
chronic ailments and injuries that did not need surgery.

"They have accumulated to the point that I deal with enormous pain on 
a daily basis," he said. "Just getting out of bed, especially during 
the season, can be difficult."

Drafted in the first round in 2009 by the Jacksonville Jaguars, 
Monroe played regularly for most of his career. After he was traded 
to the Ravens for two draft picks in 2013, his injuries mounted. Last 
season, he missed four games because of a severe concussion.

Monroe said he had seen the toll the game took on several of his 
friends who had already retired, and he wanted to end his career 
before his body deteriorated further and he needed to take yet more 
pills to continue playing.

"I don't want to have to continue to consume pills to do that; I 
don't want to do that," he said. "Anti-inflammatories or opioids, 
which I certainly don't want to take, that is certainly the option to 
stay within the rules of the game."

Monroe said he would continue to call for players to be allowed to 
use medical marijuana. He said he had been in talks with the N.F.L. 
Players Association, the players' union. The league has not softened 
its prohibition against medical marijuana, though Commissioner Roger 
Goodell said that the league's medical advisers would continue to 
study its uses and efficacy.

Monroe said that while he was now free to promote medical marijuana, 
he hoped current players would also raise their voices. Many of them 
want more research on the effects of medical marijuana but are afraid 
to say so publicly for fear of upsetting their employers, he said.

"I've had conversations with my teammates and have been in 
conversations with players, and at the very least, they believe more 
research is needed to find a better option," Monroe said.

But, he added, "there is also a great amount of reluctance for people 
to jump out and do the same thing, and say they believe there are issues."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom