Monday, June 18, 2018
Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFL player using marijuana for Crohn's disease may press league over drug policy

Seantrel Henderson, a third-year offensive lineman for the Buffalo Bills, is facing his second suspension of the season for violating the NFL's substance-abuse rules. But Henderson's case is unusual because it raises fresh questions about the approach to pain management and changing attitudes about the legalization of marijuana.

What makes Henderson's situation unique is that he uses marijuana, which is legal in many states but prohibited under the collective bargaining agreement in the NFL, to combat the pain from Crohn's disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that just this year has caused him to have two surgeries. In January, 21/2 feet of his colon were removed and in April he underwent surgery to reattach his intestines. In the interim, he wore an ileostomy bag and lost 50 pounds. He chose not to appeal the four-game suspension he received in September, his first of the season.

But Henderson, a former Miami Hurricane, is expected to appeal what would be a 10-game suspension for this second offense for using a banned substance. The NFL is expected to decide his punishment this week and nfl.com's Ian Rapoport reports that Henderson may take the matter to court.

"Merciful or not, there is no medical exception that the NFL will accept. It doesn't matter that Seantrel is battling Crohn's disease, and has had his intestines outside his body," his agent, Brian Fettner, told ESPN's Adam Schefter in September after the first suspension. "It doesn't matter how you take it, if you digest the cannabis, that's it. And they don't care."

Fettner went on to explain their reasoning for not appealing the first time around, saying, "So you can appeal and lose, and push it back, or you can get it over with. Per the negotiated letter of law, it seems like a futile appeal. We don't want to waste anyone's time. We want Seantrel back as soon as possible."

That apparently will not be his attitude this time. Many NFL players are finding that marijuana offers a safer alternative to pain management than anti-inflammatory medication and are beginning to push for the NFL and the NFL Players Association to reconsider the substance abuse rules that the two sides negotiated.

For the 24-year-old Henderson, who missed the last five games in the 2015 season as he dealt with Crohn's complications that led to surgeries, the problems are debilitating. And almost everything, from opioids to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, carries serious side effects.

"I was weak," he told the Palm Beach Post. "At first I couldn't stand up on my own. I felt so weak. It was terrible. I didn't like it at all. I kept walking and walking around the hospital."

An unnamed source told NFL.com, "He needs cannabis. You can't take painkillers with the way his intestines are."

Attitudes are changing, but change may not come swiftly enough for Henderson. After more states legalized marijuana use in the November elections, the NFL Players Association said it is actively studying the possibility of allowing players to use it for pain management.

"Marijuana is still governed by our collective bargaining agreement," George Atallah, the NFLPA's assistant executive director of external affairs, said earlier this month. "And while some states have moved in a more progressive direction, that fact still remains.

"We are actively looking at the issue of pain management of our players. And studying marijuana as a substance under that context is the direction we are focused on."

Eugene Monroe, the former NFL player who is a leading advocate for marijuana as a painkiller, explained to the Washington Post the distinctions that make it preferable.

"Whereas opioids can lead to addiction, organ damage and overdose, cannabis is not addictive and doesn't cause death. Cannabis can treat chronic pain as effectively as opioids, and in cases in which opioids are necessary, such as after surgery, using cannabis reduces the necessary dosage, thereby reducing the risk of addiction.

"He learned the differences among at least 113 cannabinoids marijuana contains. THC is the psychoactive compound, the reason recreational users seek it. But cannabidiol, or CBD, provides analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. CBD can be extracted into oil and administered in pill form that doesn't render a high. Monroe came to believe the majority of what he had been taught about marijuana was a lie, the harm it caused overblown and the potential benefits ignored."

It seems unlikely, though, that increased information and swiftly changing attitudes will come through to help Henderson this season.

Comments
Bucs journal: O.J. Howard poised to take off?

Bucs journal: O.J. Howard poised to take off?

TAMPA — There's always a lot of attention on the rookie class this time of year, rightfully so. There's a reason the Bucs focused on defense, and DT Vita Vea, CBs M.J. Stewart, Carlton Davis and S Justin Whitehead all look like they could have ...
Published: 06/16/18
Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow pleads not guilty to kidnapping, rape charges

Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow pleads not guilty to kidnapping, rape charges

Times wiresVISTA, Calif. – Former Bucs and Hurricanes tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was jailed without bail Friday after pleading not guilty to nine counts of kidnapping, rape and other charges.If convicted on all counts, Winslow, 34, could face...
Published: 06/15/18
Bucs still don’t know when Jameis Winston will throw another pass that matters

Bucs still don’t know when Jameis Winston will throw another pass that matters

TAMPA — The last pass thrown by Jameis Winston in a regular-season game was his best. The perfectly arced, 39-yard strike to Chris Godwin for a touchdown with nine seconds left gave the Bucs a 31-24 win over New Orleans at Raymond James Stadium...
Published: 06/15/18
Bucs busy on next Ray-Jay renovation with East Stadium Club

Bucs busy on next Ray-Jay renovation with East Stadium Club

The first Bucs home game of the 2018 season is still three months off, but the franchise is busy getting Raymond James Stadium ready with the fourth phase of its $160 million renovation, highlighted by a new East Stadium Club.Construction continues t...
Published: 06/15/18
Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Gerald McCoy sounds off

Sports Day Tampa Bay podcast: Gerald McCoy sounds off

The Bucs wrap up minicamp as Gerald McCoy sounds off on the team getting help for him, defensive line coach Brentson Buckner yelling at the veteran defensive tackle and advice for the young players who now have five weeks off before training camp.Plu...
Published: 06/15/18
Gerald McCoy: ‘Stop saying Gerald got help. No, the Bucs got help’

Gerald McCoy: ‘Stop saying Gerald got help. No, the Bucs got help’

TAMPA — On the last day of minicamp, DT Gerald McCoy made it clear that the new additions to the defensive line are what the entire team needed, not just himself."It's not about me. It's about the team," McCoy said of the addition of five new l...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Bucs hit summer break with optimism, eager for training camp

Bucs hit summer break with optimism, eager for training camp

TAMPA — This week's three-day minicamp was the final push in the Bucs' offseason, with about six weeks now until the team reconvenes in late July for training camp and the real preamble to the 2018 season.So what, if anything, can be gleaned fr...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Maybe 2018 is the year the Bucs take that step forward

Maybe 2018 is the year the Bucs take that step forward

TAMPA — The Bucs wrapped up a three-day minicamp on Thursday.“I’m going on vacation,’’ Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said.The next time we see the Bucs will be in five weeks. Just around the corner. That’s when, official...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow arrested on suspicion of rape, kidnapping

Ex-Buc Kellen Winslow arrested on suspicion of rape, kidnapping

Times wiresSAN DIEGO – Former Bucs and Hurricanes tight end Kellen Winslow Jr. was arrested Thursday on suspicion of multiple sex-crimes-related charges, including two counts of rape, the San Diego County Sheriff's Department said.The departmen...
Published: 06/14/18
Sealed and delivered: Bucs RB Ronald Jones signs rookie contract

Sealed and delivered: Bucs RB Ronald Jones signs rookie contract

The Bucs' 2018 draft class is now all in the fold, with running back Ronald Jones, second-rounder from USC, signing his rookie deal Thursday.Jones, who won't turn 21 until August after the Bucs go to training camp, was the last of Tampa Bay's eight d...
Published: 06/14/18