Former Denver Broncos Address NFL's Pain Problem, Endorse MMJ Use

Former Denver Broncos Marvin Washington (left) and Grant Mattos have a combined sixteen years in the NFL.
Former Denver Broncos Marvin Washington (left) and Grant Mattos have a combined sixteen years in the NFL. HERB
Using medical marijuana as an alternative to prescription drugs for pain treatment has become increasingly common, especially in states that have legalized cannabis. Unfortunately for professional athletes who play one of our country's most painful sports, they can't use MMJ without risking their job status. But that could change now that former professional football players — a handful of whom used to play for the Denver Broncos — are speaking out about their preference for cannabis.

In a video posted on HERB (below), four former NFL players talk about how widespread opioid use is in the league, thanks to the severe pain many players deal with and the easy access they have to painkillers from team medical staffs. Although they believe many current players would prefer cannabis to treat their pain issues, the "shield" of the NFL — or the reputation associated with the NFL logo that owners are desperate to keep — has prevented any progress toward allowing players access to medical marijuana.

Marijuana is still on the banned-substances list in the NFL and every other major professional sports league. Even players who live in states that have legalized it medically or recreationally are banned from consuming it, because each league's respective collective-bargaining agreement bans the use of federally illegal drugs.

Two of the players in the video, Grant Mattos and Marvin Washington, played for the Broncos. Leonard Marshall, a twelve-year veteran from the ’80s and ’90s, and Eben Britton, who played six years as an offensive guard and recently retired, are also in the video. Mattos was a wide receiver and special-teams player out of the University of Southern California who spent five seasons in the NFL, one with the Broncos. Washington, an eleven-year veteran at defensive end who played most of his years with the Jets, won a Super Bowl in 1998 during his lone season in Denver.

"Instead of talk about it, I ran, I disappeared," Mattos says in the video of his addiction to opioids after retiring from football.

Washington says he was surprised to see his medical records after retiring from the NFL, because he wasn't told about many of the injuries listed there, such as concussions and broken fingers. In the video, he voices his disappointment in NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, who recently said he has concerns about players smoking pot. "What about the long-term effects of football on your health?" Washington asks, "How are you protecting 'the shield' when guys are out there not functioning in society because of head trauma or addiction to pills?"

These aren't the only players who have worn blue and orange and gone on to endorse medical marijuana. Former Broncos receiver Charlie Thompson, tight end Nate Jackson, quarterback Jake Plummer and running back LenDale White have all come out publicly in support of therapeutic cannabis use.

View the full video below:

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Thomas Mitchell has written about all things cannabis for Westword since 2014, covering sports, real estate and general news along the way for publications such as the Arizona Republic, Inman and Fox Sports. He's currently the cannabis editor for
Contact: Thomas Mitchell