Pass it to Me, Coach

A few weeks ago, I noted here that NFL players have begun a serious push to permit medical marijuana among its ranks, and in terms of the PR offensive, dramatic steps were taken just recently. Owing to the severe repercussions faced by former running back Ricky Williams when he pioneered taking that position some 15 years ago, a move that cost him millions and shortened his career by a half-decade or more, active players have maintained relative silence on the issue. The real heavy-lifting has been left to their retired counterparts-some of whom, most helpfully, are legitimate legends. (You may have heard of Williams launching his own marijuana brand last week: Real Wellness by Ricky Williams.)

To wit: A recent article by writer Javier Hasse, published by Playboy in February, features the testimony of eight NFL retirees who claim that cannabis has helped them with life after football. The article features comments from a variety of veterans like Williams, Leonard Marshall, Grant Mattos, Marvin Washington, Shaun Smith, Eugene Monroe and former Jaguars offensive tackle Eben Britton. These men all played at a fairly high level, at positions on both sides of the ball, suffering the kinds of injuries specific to their skill-sets: torn muscles, busted knees and, of course, concussions.

The centerpiece of the article, however, is Hall of Famer Joe Montana, arguably the greatest NFL quarterback of all time. For the uninitiated: Montana led the San Francisco 49ers to four Super Bowl titles between 1982 and 1990, earning a reputation for unflappability on the field and infallibility in all high-pressure, big-money situations. In other words, no one epitomized poise, moderation and all-American discipline better than the man they called “Joe Cool.”

“Legalization is picking up steam on a global level,” says Montana, 61, “and I feel like now is the time to spread information about the curing capabilities of this plant.” For Montana to speak out on this issue, despite all the pressure not to, changes the nature of the debate immeasurably. Montana’s opinion can’t be dismissed due to also-ran status, or marginalized by citing suspensions or arrests. No, this guy is as clean-cut as they come, and his record on the field can be matched only by the likes of Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, so his views on marijuana carry more weight than probably any athlete who’s spoken publicly about it.

“As with any medicine, increased accessibility comes with the need for education,” he continues. “Cannabis eased my pain. It also put me in a state of healing and relief.” For longtime football fans, the idea of Joe Montana, a two-time NFL MVP and eight-time Pro Bowl selection, spending his retirement years toking up and staring at the horizon almost makes perfect sense. With those sleepy eyes and that bulletproof smile, it’s a bit surprising it’s only come to light this year. After all, he did play for San Francisco.