If Steelers impending free agent safety Ryan Clark had any hopes of returning to the Steelers, he might have burned that bridge Thursday morning.
In an appearance on ESPN’s “First Take,” Clark said some Steelers smoke marijuana, a drug that is not only illegal in most of the United States, but also is on the league’s list of banned substances.
“I know guys on my team who smoke,” said Clark, a 12-year NFL veteran who has been with the Steelers since 2006. “And it’s not a situation where you think, ‘Oh, these are guys trying to be cool. These are guys who want to do it recreationally.’
“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 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 relief and also to medicate themselves for pain. Guys are still going to do it.”
The NFL screens for marijuana use among the many drugs it tests for at various points, but Clark, who later wrote on his Twitter account that he does not use the drug himself, said those tests are easy to beat.
“The testing isn’t stringent,” said Clark, who will become an unrestricted free agent in March. “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 a failed drug test.”
The Steelers have not had a player suspended for failing a drug test since tight end Weslye Saunders tested positive for Adderall, which is used to treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Adderall is an amphetamine and is on the NFL’s list of banned substances.
Sanders was released by the Steelers after serving a four-game suspension and subsequently signed with the Indianapolis Colts. He again tested positive for a banned substance last season, drawing an eight-game suspension.
Wide receiver Santonio Holmes was suspended for a game by head coach Mike Tomlin in 2008 after a police officer found a small amount of marijuana in the ash tray of his vehicle during a traffic stop. Holmes was traded to the New York Jets after the 2009 season.
“We support the NFL’s drug-testing policy, and we will have no further reaction to Ryan’s comments,” said Steelers communications coordinator Burt Lauten.
Marijuana use took center stage last week at the Super Bowl as the states that produced the two participants in the game, Seattle and Denver, have recently legalized marijuana usage.
At his state of the league address last Friday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, a Washington & Jefferson College graduate, was asked about the possibility of the league taking marijuana off the banned substances list in light of its legalization in some states.
“It is still an illegal substance on a national basis,” Goodell said. “It’s something that is part of the collective bargaining agreement with players. It is questionable as to the positive impacts, in the face of very strong evidence of the negative effects, including addictions and other issues.
“We’ll continue to follow the medicine. Our experts right now are not indicating that we should change our policy in any way. We’re not actively considering it at this point in time. But if it goes down the road sometime, that’s something we would never take off the table.”