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Calvin Johnson on painkillers: ‘They were giving them out like candy’

Vincent Frank
Calvin Johnson

Former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson spoke up about his tenure in the National Football League just recently on ESPN’s E:60.

The recently retired future Hall of Fame pass catcher gave up football at the young age of 30. And we are now starting to understand one of the primary reasons why he hung up his cleats.

It’s no real surprise that injuries and bumps/bruises played a role in Johnson’s early retirement. Touching on just that, Johnson had this to say about the widespread use of painkillers in the sport.

“I guess my first half of my career before they really, you know, before they were like started looking over the whole industry, or the whole NFL, the doctors, the team doctors and trainers they were giving them (painkillers) out like candy,” Johnson said, via ESPN.

There’s been a ton of talk about the use of these drugs around the NFL and just how much they have impacted the players off the field.

Former Baltimore Ravens offensive tackle Eugene Monroe has been pushing hard for the NFL to go away from the use of painkillers, instead relying on medical marijuana to help players overcome the bumps and bruises they suffer on game day.

It’s an interesting dynamic. The NFL has pushed back against certain scientific findings that marijuana can be used to help with concussions. And Monroe himself was released by the Ravens shortly after his lobbying for medical marijuana became public record.

Johnson didn’t specifically touch on that topic. Though, his former teammate, linebacker DeAndre Levy has.

As it relates to Johnson, he continued to discuss the widespread availability of painkillers for NFL players.

“If you were hurting, then you could get ’em, you know. It was nothing. I mean, if you needed Vicodin, call out, ‘My ankle hurt,’ you know. ‘I need, I need it. I can’t, I can’t play without it,’ or something like that. It was simple,” Johnson continued. “That’s how easy it was to get ’em, you know. So if you were dependent on ’em, they were readily available.”

Needless to say, this can lead to a culture of addiction and dependency, something we’ve seen from countless ex-NFL players in the past.

It’s interesting to hear Johnson speak out on this topic. He’s a voice of authority here. He’s also among the most popular players in modern NFL history. From a micro perspective, his stance on the topic tends to fit in line with others around the league.