Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - It's refreshing when someone cuts through the bull and starts shooting from the hip.
Veteran Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark did just that on ESPN's "First Take" Thursday when discussing the rampant use of marijuana in the NFL and the league's flawed substance-abuse testing policy.
"I know guys on my team who smoke," Clark admitted before stumbling into player spin: "A lot of it is stress relief. A lot of it is pain and medication. Guys feel like, 'If I can do this, it keeps me away from maybe Vicodin, it keeps me away from pain prescription drugs and things that guys get addicted to.' Guys look at this as a more natural way to heal themselves, to stress relieve and also to medicate themselves for pain."
Clark then clarified his views on Twitter.
"I don't smoke marijuana," he said, perhaps fearful he just put a rather large target on his back. "I won't smoke marijuana. The NFL shouldn't push marijuana but I'd be a fool to say that people don't use it."
As our society at large gets more and more liberal, views on smoking pot have certainly eased over the years, especially among certain cultures.
Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have given the green light to treat certain medical conditions with marijuana. Colorado and Washington residents voted in 2012 to decriminalize its recreational use and several other states could have medical marijuana laws on the books in the near future.
Much was made of the fact that the two teams in Super Bowl XLVIII -- Seattle and Denver -- come from the two states that have OK'd recreational pot use yet both the Seahawks and Broncos has players suspended under the NFL's substance- abuse policy, presumably for weed.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll even opined that the league should investigate medicinal marijuana use to see if it can help players.
"They (the NFL) need to just let it go," New York Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie said in an interview on Thiis50.com. "We're just going to do it anyway. They just need to let it go. They need to go ahead and say, 'Y'all go ahead, smoke it, do what you need to do.'"
Players like Cromartie who deem the policy unfair are barking up the wrong tree, however. All 50 states could decriminalize use tomorrow and NFL players would still be unable to partake without possible suspension because they agreed to that stipulation in the collective bargaining process.
"It's something that is part of the collective bargaining agreement with the players," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said at his annual Super Bowl news conference. "It is questionable as to the positive impacts, in the face of the very strong evidence of the negative effects, including addictions and other issues."
Arguments that marijuana isn't as harmful of alcohol or even certain prescription drugs are just red herrings.
It's Friday and I would like to go home tonight and have a gin and tonic or two but if Woody Johnson was going to write me an eight-figure check with the condition I would have to put down the Bombay Sapphire for two months, it's going back in the cabinet.
Similarly, NFL players with a modicum of discipline can smoke all the weed they want for most of the year because they are only tested twice in what amounts to an IQ test because the timing of the screening never changes unless a player has been nabbed previously, which triggers a far more stringent year- round testing protocol.
"They're fighting a losing battle. The testing isn't stringent," Clark said. "There is one random test during OTAs and minicamps during the offseason, and everybody will be tested early in training camp. After that, there are no more tests. So guys understand the ways to get around failing a drug test."
Losing battle or not the biggest hurdle for marijuana advocates in the NFL remains the lack of authenticity in their argument.
For the vast majority who use, this isn't about stress release or pain tolerance, it's about partying, something their employers -- who cut some very large checks -- aren't all that concerned with enabling or endorsing.
"Our experts right now are not indicating that we should change our policy in any way," Goodell said. "We are not actively considering that at this point in time."