Calvin Johnson Discussed How Scary Easy It Is For NFL Players To Get Hooked On Painkillers

By 07.07.16
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Former Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson detailed what went into his decision to retire here recently and now he’s opening up even more about life in the NFL.

Johnson, in a conversation for ESPN’s E:60, sheds some harsh light on the use of painkillers as well as how concussions are really treated by the team medical staffs.

“I guess my first half of my career before they really, you know, before they were like started looking over the whole industry, or the whole NFL, the doctors, the team doctors and trainers they were giving them out like candy, you know?” Johnson said in an interview with ESPN’s Michael Smith for E:60 that debuts Thursday at 10 p.m. ET.

“If you were hurting, then you could get ’em, you know. It was nothing. I mean, if you needed Vicodin, call out, ‘My ankle hurt,’ you know. ‘I need, I need it. I can’t, I can’t play without it,’ or something like that. It was simple. That’s how easy it was to get ’em, you know. So if you were dependent on ’em, they were readily available.”

Johnson also talked about how, as many suspect, team doctors are still not the best at keeping players off the field, especially when it comes to concussions.

“Concussions happen,” he said. “If not on every play, then they happen like every other, every third play, you know. With all the helmet contact, guys hitting the ground, heads hitting ground. It’s simply when your brain touches your skull from the movement or the inertia, man. It’s simple to get a concussion, you know. I don’t know how many I’ve had over my career, you know, but I’ve definitely had my fair share.” Johnson didn’t come out and blame the league for knowingly putting players at risk, but he described a culture that demands that players play.

“The team doctor, the team trainers, they work for the team. And I love ’em, you know,” he said. “They’re some good people, you know. They want to see you do good. But at the same time, they work for the team, you know. They’re trying to do whatever they can to get you back on the field and make your team look good. So if it’s not gonna make the team look good, or if you’re not gonna be on the field, then they’re tryin’ to do whatever they can to make that happen.”

That being said, Johnson says that he has no regrets and will definitely miss the game. Luckily for him he made enough money where he was able to walk away early rather than hang like most players in the league, perhaps saving himself some permanent physical damage as a result.

Check out the rest of the conversation over at ESPN.

Related: What Does Calvin Johnson’s Retirement Mean for the Future of the NFL?


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