Randy Gregory and America’s Shifting Marijuana Acceptance


Randy Gregory is a top-10 NFL prospect regardless of his smoking pot and testing positive at the 2015 NFL Scouting Combine. He’s admitted it has been a struggle in the past but claims it isn’t now.

Quite frankly, NFL talent evaluators can simply flick on the game tape or look at Gregory’s impressive Scouting Combine performance to see that this guy has what it takes to play at the NFL level.

Still, he’s going to get questions about his failed drug test and it’s going to spark concerns in the minds of more than a few NFL execs. It’s already causing some to say that teams with top draft picks, like the Jacksonville Jaguars, should immediately pass him by. The truth is, we may well see Randy Gregory tumble down draft boards and a very real slip when April 30th rolls around and the 2015 NFL Draft’s first round occurs.

What’s interesting here is that the NFL is still very much insulated from the shift in marijuana acceptance (dare I say, culture) in the United States. While states like Washington and Colorado offer legalized recreational marijuana and other states allow for medicinal use, we see the NFL taking a very firm stand that marijuana is still seen as an “off the field issue” and decidedly frowned upon. As noted by Fox’s Kimberly Jones:

"At the combine, executives from two NFL teams indicated to NFL Media that there were concerns about Gregory’s Nebraska off-the-field “issues.” And this was before Gregory’s positive test from the combine came to light."

In a sport that requires dedication and peak physical performance, it’s understandable that league executives are concerned about the effect weed may have on one of their prized players – especially if they were thinking of spending a top-1o pick on him.

From that standpoint (of the player being an investment) it’s clear that there is a concern. What about from a moralistic standpoint, however?

Feb 21, 2015; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Nebraska defensive lineman Randy Gregory talks to the media at the 2015 NFL Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

Often we are told to think that if a player is involved with pot then he is immediately considered as having an “issue.” That immediately makes us all think it is a problem and that it will impact the player in a negative way. The truth, however, is that it can be an issue but is not necessarily so. Personally, I believe that Gregory has dealt with it admirably, owning up to it as a legitimate problem during his time in college but affirming that he has moved past his most consistent use of the drug and that it will have less and less of an impact going forward. While I don’t think he’s out of the woods yet with his “issue” I do admire the way he has handled it:

"Last month at the combine, Gregory said he spent time with 29 teams in formal and informal interviews. In all 29 sessions, he said, his marijuana use at Nebraska was discussed; if the team didn’t bring up the subject, Gregory said he did."

To me, that speaks of responsibility from a young player. That acceptance of responsibility – regardless of sobriety or insobriety by young players – is often difficult to note in many draft picks. You need only look at instant-distraction Johnny Manziel as an example (though with a different off field concern). Gregory is addressing his past marijuana use and letting teams know where he is in moving past that part in his life and his development toward becoming a professional athlete.

NFL athletes are held to higher standard than the average US citizen. While marijuana is gaining acceptance across the 50 states, we still look toward our premiere athletes to hold themselves accountable when it comes to drugs and to not imbibe overtly and (most importantly to many) not have it affect on-field performance. To me, Gregory is holding himself to that higher standard, though he is obviously not constantly succeeding. He knows he is not yet there, but he is striving toward it and that is admirable.

Randy Gregory is coming to the NFL to make an impact and be a successful player. He’s coming to the NFL to win. He sounds dedicated to turning his career into a success story. In his own words, “I don’t want to be labeled as some bust that couldn’t make it because he smoked. And I won’t be labeled as that.”

Next: Is Randy Gregory No Longer an Option for the Jags?

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