There is no question that the debate over the use of marijuana is an evolving recreational, and now medical, complicated mess. However, the NFL has and continues to maintain, a steadfast policy: if you use it and test positive, you are suspended.
So, what about the therapeutic benefits in limiting pain? And should they matter for a player, who has physician backing, that says the drug would help him with his pain and thereby, continue his NFL career.
That player is former Bucs and Miami Hurricanes running back, Mike James.
James has had a largely undistinguished NFL career. He’s played in 23 career games in three seasons over the course of the last five years. He’s got 83 career carries for 351 yards in parts in those three different years with the Bucs. He’s shown above scoring in the 2015 preseason for Tampa Bay.
The last of his regular seasons was, when after being cut at the start of the year, he was re-signed late in the 2016 season by the Bucs. And, he carried the ball just four times in the four games he played.
After being waived by the Buccaneers, yet again, James was signed by the Lions. He was in their 2017 training camp and played in the preseason, where he suffered a concussion. James went on injured reserve and has not yet re-signed with another team.
And that’s, where the marijuana use comes into the equation.
In a story Tuesday afternoon in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel, writer Rick Maese detailed James’ bid to get a Therapeutic-Use Exemption or a “TUE” from the NFL to allow him with a physicians guidance to take the drug in moderation to minimize his pain. .
Alas, as Maese lays out the latest:
The league denied his request last week, which James said jeopardizes his ability to sign with a team and continue his career.
“By them denying me a TUE, they’re really giving me no other options to continue playing football,” the 27-year old James said in an interview this week. “To be able to play this violent game and deal with my chronic pain, I need an option for that.”
Maese, goes on to detail James’ injury plight which began with a gruesome broken leg injury suffered on a goal line hand-off on Monday Night Football against the Dolphins in November of 2013, his rookie year.
James telling the Sun-Sentinel he was prescribed opioid painkillers to help with the pain,
“The routine I had was, my wife would give me some pills and I would try to sneak and get extra, get more,” said James, who first detailed his story in a CNN documentary that aired Sunday. “When those ran out, I’d try to search as much as I could to get more — mostly asking around, trying to get it as fast as possible from people that I knew that had it.”
It should be noted that the NFL, after the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency got involved, has put in much more stringent accounting policies on pain killers and pills given to players in recent years.
Back to James, he is using the help of an organization called Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, which has former Dolphins star Ricky Williams as one of it’s board members. Williams was suspended multiple times by the NFL for repeated marijuana use. He has now made it a goal to get the NFL to come around and allow players to use the drug recreationally, and more importantly, medically.
The organization, in coordination with James’ doctor, and the notifying of the NFLPA attempted to get the TUE exemption with James. Again, that was denied.
The NFL didn’t return comment to the Sun-Sentinel. However, as they point out in the story, the league doesn’t comment on drug cases/appeal statuses, etc.
It should be noted that more and more states where there are NFL franchises like Florida, Colorado and Washington, have legalized marijuana for at least medical, if not recreational use.
However, the NFL has made it clear that, just because the state has made it legal, it’s illegal, for any reason, to use in the NFL. And they will test, catch and suspend you for doing so.
Once more, back to James, as he tells the paper that he does use the drug currently, with the physcian’s guidance and prescription and that it’s helping. Further, that he can’t specifically discuss an appeal but, “we’re in talks with the league to try to resolve this.”
Perhaps, there will be a day when marijuana does get the NFL’s blessing, as a therapeutic drug.
For now, that day is not for Mike James. And if he wants to continue, his career, he’s got to stop using it and find other ways to cope with his pain.
Is the FitzMagic Show Over?
I think I know now why Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter stuck with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB for Sunday’s game against the Giants. It seems the plan all along was to stick with Fitz until he exceeded Jameis Winston’s pick total.
That would make a move back to Winston seem warranted and to the surprise of few, Fitzpatrick obliged on Sunday by throwing three picks, including a pick-six, during a 38-35 loss at Giants Stadium.
That brought Fitzpatrick’s season pick total to 12, two more than Winston, and so FitzMagic is gone. His magic touch has been gone for a while, but now he and his magic touch are gone for good. Unless they’re not.
You never know with these Bucs, so let’s break this one down.
Let’s start with Winston, whose redemption tour began in fine fashion. After replacing Fitzpatrick early in the third quarter he engineered four straight scoring drives to give the Bucs hope in a game in which all hope seemed lost.
It wasn’t always pretty. Winston got lucky when Mike Evans fell on his fumble in the end zone at the end of his first drive and got lucky a couple more times when the butterfingered Giants couldn’t hold on to a couple of tipped passes.
But Winston was more good than bad and was at times spectacular in completing 12 of 15 passes for 199 yards and two touchdown tosses before a last-ditch throw wound up in the Giants hands with 13 seconds left.
Not only that, but the return of Winston to the lineup Sunday seemed to bring a sense of normalcy to this team, a feeling that this is how it’s supposed to be, how it was supposed to be all along.
Like Winston a few weeks ago, Fitzpatrick more than earned his place on the bench. His three picks Sunday gave him seven in the three games he started ahead of Winston and they came at critical junctures.
The first came on a throw from his own 30-yard line, which means it wiped out a scoring chance. The second was a pick-six and the third was simply thrown up for grabs at a point when the Bucs still had time to rally.
Oh, and let’s not forget that the Bucs caught a break when the Giants didn’t challenge a would-be Fitzpatrick fumble on second-and-11 from the Giants 15 early in the game.
At the end of the day, Fitzpatrick’s giveaways led to 10 points for the Giants, and the Bucs wound up losing by three. It’s easy to say then that without those picks, the Bucs could have easily won.
The defense never had a chance in this one. Before the game even started, the Bucs were without linebackers Kwon Alexander and Lavonte David, safeties Justin Evans and Chris Conte, cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and defensive lineman Vinny Curry.
That’s more than half this team’s projected starters on that side of the ball, and nowhere are the Bucs thinner than on defense, where they just don’t have enough quality depth, particularly in the secondary.
Throw on top of that the fact that the Bucs spent the bulk of the first half blowing their gap assignments in the running game and it’s no wonder they spent the day playing catchup.
They mostly struggled to stop Barkley, who ran 27 times for 142 yards and two touchdowns, but they were equally ineffective against quarterback Eli Manning, who matched a career-best start by completing each of his first 11 passes for 128 yards and a touchdown.
For one week at least, the kicker wasn’t an issue. Cairo Santos, who was brought in this week to replace Chandler Catanazaro, who was finally fired after missing two more field goal tries last week, five for five on PATs. He did not attempt a field goal.
Gameday- Bucs searching for win in New York
Who: Bucs (3-6) at Giants (2-7)
When: Sunday 1 p.m.
Where: Metlife Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ
Spread: Giants by 2 1/2 points (Courtesy of VegasInsider.com)
Here’s what to watch:
Bucs Must be better in Red Zone
There is no disputing of the Buccaneers move the football between the 20 yard lines last week to the tune of 500 yards of total offense. There’s also no disputing that the Bucs were 0 – 5 in the red zone on scoring points and lost 16 – 3.
Tampa Bay ran 12 plays last week in the red zone and had -8 yards to show for them. That has to be better against a Giant defense that has been vulnerable. Some of that is the fault of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (above), who has five turnovers in the last two Bucs games, and two of those were inside the opponent’s 20 last week.
Further, in their last three games the Bucs are 27th in red zone touchdown percentage converting on just 41.6% of them.
It’s Not the Only key for the Buccaneers offense, but if they get inside the 20 yard line, it’s a big one.
Pressure Eli Manning
One area where the Buccaneers have to have an impact if they want to win is putting pressure on Eli Manning. He has been knocked around like a pinata this season, as the Giants have given up 3.6 sacks per game so far this year. That’s 31st in the league.
Their protection was better in the Monday night 27-23 win over the 49ers, where Manning was only sacked once.
Buccaneers defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul has registered eight sacks so far this season in nine games and is anxious to have a chance to hit Eli Manning for the first time in his career.
If Manning consistently gets time to throw, the Buccaneers are going to be in big trouble.
The Buccaneers have been horrible in this category with just 6 takeaways so far in 9 games. That is 31st in the NFL trailing only San Francisco with five. Also the Buccaneers turnover differential is the worst in the NFL at – 19.
Now, the Giants aren’t much better. In fact they have only 9 takeaways on the season, but their turnover margin is just – 1.
It’s safe to say then if either team can take it away two or maybe three times in this game, it will likely decide who wins.
Final injury updates for Bucs and Jaguars Sunday games
As the Buccaneers get set to head to New York to play the Giants and the Jaguars are preparing to host the Steelers Sunday, it’s time to take a look at the injuries in those two games. (Reminder the Dolphins have their bye week for this weekend.)
Here’s a look at the latest:
For the Bucs, there Friday injury report has defensive names littered all over it and the news is not good for some of them.
After we were told by a source that Lavonte David was going to try to play Sunday, he apparently was overruled by the training staff and head coach Dirk Koetter, etc, and the Pro Bowl linebacker will be inactive with his sprained knee. Likewise, Vinny Curry will miss another game at defensive end, his fourth in the last five with a sprained ankle.
It’s the same situation with second year safety Justin Evans, who will miss the game with an injured toe suffered in the game with Washington last week. Defensive end Carl Nassib, who’s been a pleasant find off the waiver wire at the beginning of the season, is questionable with a left elbow injury suffered agains the Redskins, although he was able to practice on Friday.
The Bucs also list their receiver Chris Godwin as questionable with an ankle injury, and another important injury is starting center Ryan Jensen, who’s questionable with a hamstring injury. If Jensen is unable to play Sunday, then Ali Marpet, starting at left guard this year, but who played center a lot of 2017, would likely take his place.
The Buccaneers opponents, the Giants, had four players on their injury list this week, but all of them are now slated to play in the game on Sunday.
For the Jaguars match-up, they have two significant injuries to update, starting linebacker Telvin Smith was able to practice this week with his shoulder injury and is listed as questionable, but expected to play against Pittsburgh. There is concern for defensive tackle Marcell Dareus with a triceps injury and he is also listed as questionable. Dareus will likely be a game time decision.
Defensive back A.J. Bouye has been bothered by a calf injury, but he is also expected to play after being able to practice Thursday and Friday and listed as questionable. Coach Doug Marrone also announced that tackle Erik Flowers, who left last week’s game with tendonitis in his knee will start on the makeshift Jaguars line.
As we wrote earlier in the week, Jacksonville placed Center Brandon Linder on injured reserve with a knee injury suffered in last week’s lost Indianapolis.
The Steelers have no significant injuries, despite Ben Roethlisberger and James Conner both being on the injured list,. They will both be playing on Sunday. Connor was a much bigger concern having been in concussion protocol earlier after suffering one in the win last Thursday night over Carolina.
However, he cleared the protocol and was able to fully practice this week.
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