NFL, NFLPA seek alternatives to opioids for pain management

Fri Mar 5 1:43pm ET
AP Pro Football Writer

The NFL is taking steps to learn more about different ways to help players manage pain.

Last month, the NFL and NFL Players Association asked researchers with experience conducting controlled, experimental studies related to pain management to submit information that may be useful in treating players.

The joint pain management committee comprised of medical experts appointed by the league and the union wants to know about alternatives to opioids, including CBD (cannabidiol) and other cannabis-derivative products, that may help players recover from sports-specific and musculoskeletal injuries.

The committee's mission is to ''improve player health through evidence-based treatment of acute and chronic pain, and to facilitate research to better understand and improve potential alternative treatments.''

''We all recognize that appropriate treatment of pain is an important aspect of not only sports medicine but just medicine in general, so we are always looking at new methods and new techniques for treating pain that will be safer and more effective than opioids,'' Dr. Allen Sills, the NFL's chief medical officer, told The Associated Press.

The committee conducted two informational forums on CBD in 2020 to learn about its science and manufacturing.

''There is a lot of marketing for these various products but you have to understand that any time we talk about something for NFL athletes, the burden of proof is incredibly high,'' Sills said. ''NFL players obviously have a tremendous interest in what they put in their bodies and what effects can be. If you're taking a pain medication, you want to know how does it work on my pain. But you also have to be concerned with does it have any negative impact on performance, because that's equally important to an NFL player who makes a living in fractions of a second at incredibly high speeds.

''If there's a compound or a medication that causes someone to lose that edge, lose that speed, something like that, that's a substantial negative of some kind of treatment there. So I just think that all of those are things that have to be looked at and specifically for CBD and cannaboid derivatives, there just has been not a lot of work done in that specific area, to know how it really impacts performance and specifically for the elite athletes that are NFL players.''

Jim McMahon, a two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback and leader of the 1985 Chicago Bears, played through numerous injuries during his career and became addicted to opioids. Now 61, McMahon says he hasn't taken a painkiller in more than a decade.

''I was eating at least 100 percocets a month just to function, to get out of bed,'' McMahon said on the AP Pro Football Podcast. ''When I moved out here to Arizona, I got my medical marijuana license and I've been exclusively using that since and my body feels a hell of a lot better. My mind is a lot clearer. It's done me wonders.''

Cannabis is a banned substance in the NFL, although rules about players using marijuana were loosened in the latest collective bargaining agreement

Under the most recent labor deal, players who test positive for marijuana are no longer suspended but they can be fined depending on the number of positive tests. Timing of testing was changed to the first two weeks of training camp instead of from April to August. Also, the threshold needed to trigger a positive test was raised fourfold.

''I think it's headed in the right direction,'' McMahon said. ''I used throughout my whole career and I never failed a drug test.''

Top Headlines
The Paur Report

Interview with a Champ

Player Notes
Ross Cockrell Apr 13 4:30pm ET

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers re-signed cornerback Ross Cockrell to an undisclosed deal on Tuesday. The former fourth-round pick had 11 tackles and one pass deflection in 12 games (two starts) for the team last season and also played in all four playoff games. General manager Jason Licht called Cockrell "one of the best pickups" the team made in 2020. He becomes the latest member of last year's championship team to return. Cockrell will likely remain a valuable reserve in Tampa's secondary in 2021 after the club brought back all 22 starters from their Super Bowl squad a year ago. Cockrell saw playing time when both Carlton Davis and Jamel Dean missed time with injuries in the second half of last season. He played 270 defensive snaps over the final 10 games after playing on only one defensive snap through the first 10 weeks of the season.

From RotoBaller

Trevor Lawrence Apr 13 4:00pm ET

Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, who is expected to be taken first overall by the Jacksonville Jaguars in this year's draft, grew up idolizing Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning, which is why he wore the No. 16 in college. But NFL scouts continue to compare Lawrence to former Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck. Several scouts acknowledge that Lawrence is the best QB prospect since Luck, who was considered a modern pre-draft gold standard at the position. Lawrence doesn't quite measure up to Luck, but he's the closest to Luck's neighborhood of any QB drafted since. Offseason surgery on his non-throwing shoulder shouldn't affect his first NFL training camp. He's expected to be Jacksonville's Week 1 starter, and his experience with the run-pass option should mesh well with new head coach Urban Meyer.

From RotoBaller

Justin Houston Apr 13 2:40pm ET

Free-agent edge rusher Justin Houston is visiting with the Baltimore Ravens on Tuesday. The 32-year-old recorded 19 sacks while playing for the Indianapolis Colts the last two years. Houston, a four-time Pro Bowl defensive end, and he could help to fill a huge void on the end of Baltimore's defensive line. Even on the wrong side of 30 years old, Houston has remained a productive pass-rusher on the edge, also recording 25 combined tackles, one forced fumble and 30 QB hits in 32 games with the Colts. The Ravens also showed interest in the veteran when they made a run at signing him in 2019 before he inked a two-year deal with the Colts. Houston is looking to sign before the draft at the end of this month, but the Ravens are unlikely to sign any unrestricted free agent until after the draft, when it won't count against their compensatory picks.

From RotoBaller

Dylan Cantrell Apr 13 2:30pm ET

The Washington Football Team signed former Tulane basketball player Sammis Reyes to an undisclosed deal on Tuesday. Reyes finds his way to the NFL through the International Player Pathway Program (IPP). He grew up in Chile before moving to the United States at 14 years old. Reyes decided to turn his attention to football when his childhood dream of playing in the NBA didn't come to fruition. He spent the past 10 weeks training with 10 other NFL hopefuls at IMG Academy in Florida before impressing at Florida's Pro Day on March 31. The 25-year-old won't be guaranteed a spot on the active roster, and he'll be competing with Temarrick Hemingway, Marcus Baugh, Tyrone Swoopes and Dylan Cantrell to back up Logan Thomas at the position.

From RotoBaller

Gerald McCoy Apr 13 12:00pm ET

Free-agent defensive lineman Gerald McCoy (quadriceps), a six-time Pro Bowler, doesn't plan to retire after missing all of the 2020 season due to an injury. "I just know I have so much more to give this game, even if for a short period of time," McCoy said. The pass-rusher had 54.5 sacks in his nine seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as one of their top defensive playmakers. McCoy spent the 2019 season with the Carolina Panthers and signed with the Dallas Cowboys last year, but he tore his quadriceps in training camp. The 33-year-old former first-rounder doesn't want to go out with an injury. His agent, Ben Dogra, said that a few teams have inquired about McCoy's rehab, but he doesn't expect any serious offers until after the draft this month.

From RotoBaller

Tom Brady Apr 13 11:50am ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians said he's not against taking a developmental quarterback at the end of the first round (pick No. 32) of this year's draft. The Buccaneers are returning 22 starters from their championship season a year ago, so they could take the best player available when their turn is up at the end of Day 1. Taking a signal-caller later in the draft is also an option. "If the right guy is there that we think is a developmental guy that has the upside that outweighs every other position of those five or six guys that we're looking at, then we wouldn't be against it," Arians said. The top-five QBs in the draft -- Trevor Lawrence, Zach Wilson, Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones -- are all expected to be gone before Tampa picks at No. 32. Florida's Kyle Trask, Texas A&M's Kellen Mond and Stanford's Davis Mils could be options.

From RotoBaller

James Conner Apr 13 11:40am ET

The Arizona Cardinals agreed to terms on an undisclosed one-year deal with free-agent running back James Conner on Tuesday. Conner visited with the team on Monday and took a physical after he had offseason surgery to fix a turf-toe injury that he sustained recreationally this offseason. The 25-year-old is expected to make a full recovery by June, and he'll add a big-bodied complement to the smaller Chase Edmonds in Arizona's backfield after they lost Kenyan Drake to free agency. Conner had a near-1,000-yard season for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2018, but he was inconsistent and battled injuries in the last two seasons. He had 169 carries for 721 yards and six touchdowns while adding 35 receptions for 215 yards in 13 games (11 starts) in 2020. Arizona's offensive line should be an upgrade, but Conner's recent injury history is worrisome. Edmonds remains the back to own in this backfield, but the addition of Conner will hurt his overall upside.

From RotoBaller

Matt Ryan Apr 13 11:30am ET

With the No. 4 overall pick in this year's NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons are in a prime position "to stack good quarterbacks" alongside Matt Ryan, according to general manager Terry Fontenot. "It's a prime time to do it when you have a player like Matt Ryan because when you can get in the right quarterback, you don't have that pressure to play him right away. So it just opens up so many possibilities, and we have to make sure we're evaluating those positions, and we feel good about where we are there," Fontenot said. Ryan continues to play at a high level and is tied to the team for the next two years, so it's unclear if the Falcons would want to draft a top-tier QB talent and have him sit for two seasons. North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance could use some seasoning and could benefit from learning behind Ryan. But Atlanta could also choose to trade down and acquire a boatload of pick in this year's draft to fill other positions of need.

From RotoBaller

Jaleel Johnson Apr 13 2:03am ET

Houston Texans DT Jaleel Johnson signed a one-year, $1.3 million contract with the club that includes $400,000 guaranteed.

From TheHuddle

Todd Gurley Apr 12 11:13pm ET

Free-agent RB Todd Gurley (Falcons) could be of interest to the New York Jets, San Francisco 49ers or Kansas City Chiefs, in the opinion of James Fragoza of Pro Football Network.

From TheHuddle

Stephon Gilmore Apr 12 10:30pm ET

New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, the 2019 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, is entering the final year of his five-year deal. He may not be elite like he was two years ago, but Gilmore is still a very good cornerback as he approaches his 31st birthday this September. As such, Gilmore isn't guaranteed to receive a lucrative offer from the Patriots when he reaches free agency next offseason. "It's out of my control," he said. "I'm just happy to be a Patriot right now, and see how it goes." Gilmore will account for $16.265 million in salary cap space in 2021, which is over $7 million less than he accounted for in 2020. He's expected to remain the team's top corner opposite J.C. Jackson, but there's no guarantee he'll be back in 2022.

From RotoBaller

Julian Edelman Apr 12 10:20pm ET

After being released by the New England Patriots on Monday with a failed-physical designation, wide receiver Julian Edelman officially announced his retirement from football. Edelman tried to play through a pretty serious knee injury last year that eventually required surgery, and he was not going to be able to make it back in 2021 for a full season. The veteran pass-catcher missed 10 games because of the injury last year. "By any measure of what constitutes an elite NFL career -- wins, championships, production -- Julian has it all," Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said. Edelman was as clutch as they come and converted to wideout after playing quarterback in college. The seventh-round pick in 2009 blossomed into a slot receiver in New England, where he spent his entire career. He had his first 1,000-yard season in 2013, catching 105 passes for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns. From 2009-2019, he caught 599 passes for 6,507 yards and 36 touchdowns as quarterback Tom Brady's most trusted target while helping the team win three Super Bowls. Edelman is second all time to only Jerry Rice in playoff catches (118) and yards (1,442). His 620 career catches rank second in team history behind Wes Welker (672).

From RotoBaller

Julian Edelman Apr 12 5:53pm ET

Free-agent WR Julian Edelman (Patriots) announced his retirement from professional football Monday, April 12.

From TheHuddle

Julian Edelman Apr 12 5:00pm ET

The New England Patriots released veteran wide receiver Julian Edelman (knee) on Monday, following 11 seasons and three Super Bowl victories with the team. Edelman was listed as a failed physical after he'd been working to return from an injured knee last season. He'll now be facing a decision on his future in the league and could decide to hang up his cleats. Although it's not official just yet, don't be surprised to hear soon that Edelman has decided to retire. Because of the knee injury he suffered last year, it's unlikely that the 34-year-old will be able to play the entirety of the 2021 season. One of the most trustworthy PPR players in fantasy in his time with the Patriots and quarterback Tom Brady, Edelman was sorely missed in New England after he was injured in 2020. He played in just six games last year and had 21 catches for 315 yards and no touchdowns. If this is the end of the road, Edelman will finish his NFL career with 620 regular season receptions, 6,822 yards and 36 touchdowns in 137 games (85 starts), all with the Pats.

From RotoBaller

Trevor Lawrence Apr 12 5:00pm ET

The Jacksonville Jaguars have spent hours zooming with Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, and the presumed No. 1 overall pick in this year's NFL draft has impressed the team with his retention of their offensive scheme. Similar to what the Cincinnati Bengals did with quarterback Joe Burrow last year, the Jaguars are making the most of their time with the likely first overall pick. Lawrence had surgery on his non-throwing shoulder to fix a torn labrum, but everything has gone smoothly in his rehab and it's not expected to keep him out at all to begin his rookie season. The 21-year-old has both the talent and football IQ to excel at the next level, and he's expected to be Jacksonville's starter entering Week 1. He'll be a no-brainer first overall pick in dynasty/keeper formats, but Lawrence won't necessarily be a great season-long play in single-season fantasy formats in 2021.

From RotoBaller

Julian Edelman Apr 12 4:53pm ET

Free-agent WR Julian Edelman (Patriots) has been considering retirement.

Fantasy Spin: Edelman is dealing with a chronic knee injury, so fantasy players should consider avoiding him even if he decides to continue playing.

From TheHuddle

Thaddeus Moss Apr 12 4:50pm ET

Former Washington Football Team tight end Thaddeus Moss, the son of Hall of Fame wide receiver Randy Moss, has been claimed by the Cincinnati Bengals off waivers, according to a source. The former LSU star will be reunited with quarterback Joe Burrow and profiles as a low-risk, possible high-reward pickup. The Bengals were interested in signing Moss last year after he went undrafted. Moss spent his rookie season in the NFL on Injured Reserve due to a foot injury that required surgery. In his senior season at LSU, he caught 47 passes for 570 yards and four touchdowns. Moss will have a chance to compete for a roster spot this summer behind C.J. Uzomah and Drew Sample, depending on what the team does at the position in the draft.

From RotoBaller

Maxx Crosby Apr 12 4:40pm ET

University of Miami defensive end Jaelan Phillips, who has been rising up draft boards after his impressive Pro Day, was not in Indianapolis last weekend for medical evaluations because he tested positive for COVID-19, according to a source. However, Phillips will receive his physical with plenty of time prior to draft night later this month. Phillips had 15.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks in 2020, earning second-team All-American honors, and he's often been compared to NFL defensive end Maxx Crosby. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and initially started his college career at UCLA before transferring to Miami. His injury history in his time at UCLA is the biggest red flag leading up to the draft.

From RotoBaller

Julian Edelman Apr 12 4:33pm ET

New England Patriots WR Julian Edelman was released Monday, April 12, with a failed physical designation.

Fantasy Spin: Edelman missed most of the 2020 season because of a knee injury and his playing future is uncertain because of the injury. He may be able to find a new team but probably will not have much fantasy value unless he can recover from the chronic knee injury.

From TheHuddle

Giovani Bernard Apr 12 4:30pm ET

Veteran free-agent running back Giovani Bernard is signing an undisclosed one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday, according to a source. Quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bruce Arians both personally recruited Bernard, who is one of the league's best receiving backs, after he was released by the Cincinnati Bengals. It's another weapon for the Super Bowl champions, but it's uncertain how much of a role Bernard will actually have with Ronald Jones II and Leonard Fournette already in the team's backfield. Bernard, 29, had 416 rushing yards and three touchdowns and added 47 receptions for 355 yards and three additional touchdowns in 2020. Tampa's backfield is suddenly very crowded, which will make it tough to predict touches among Jones, Fournette and Bernard.

From RotoBaller