The Buccaneers Once Used A ‘Truth Serum’ On A Player To See If He Was Faking An Injury

Buccaneers Used 'Truth Serum' On Player To See If He Was Faking Injury

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  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers once deployed a wild tactic to deal with a player accused of faking an injury
  • The team gave running back Joe McCall a substance thought to be a “truth serum” in an attempt to get him to come clean
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The annals of sports history are filled with some absolutely bonkers stories; the kind that would get someone kicked out of the writers’ room for how laughably unrealistic they are, like a 42-year-old Zamboni driver coming off the bench to help win an NHL game, the boxing match that lasted for 110 rounds, and the comedy of errors that was the 1904 Olympic Marathon.

I like to think I’m fairly well-versed in those particular anecdotes, but every once in a while, I randomly stumble upon a bizarre tale that somehow managed to slip through the cracks—including one concerning the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their bizarre treatment of running back Joe McCall.

In 1993, The Washington Post published a report detailing the findings of its examination of more than 125 grievances that had been filed against the NFL in the late ’80s and early ’90s. That included one eye-opening accusation that was levied by McCall, who was drafted by the Raiders in 1984 and touched the ball a single time during his short-lived NFL career.

The Buccaneers decided to give McCall a shot when the franchise signed him for the league minimum prior to the 1986 season. He was ultimately sidelined during training camp by the knee injury that would bring his brief professional football career to an end, but league rules preventing teams from cutting injured players meant Tampa Bay was still on the hook for his salary (a number the running back described as “peanuts” during a conversation with Vice).

The team, however, did have an out if it could prove McCall was lying about the injury.

While it’s not entirely clear who was responsible for dreaming up the subsequent plan of action, what is clear is that a team doctor called McCall in for what was marketed as a routine examination before administering a heavy dose of sodium pentothal—an anesthetic that the CIA has been known to deploy as a “truth serum” thanks to its ability to bypass filters in the human brain and get people to talk.

Much to Tampa Bay’s disappointment, McCall did not confess to faking the injury (due to the fact that it was very real). That didn’t stop the Bucs from releasing him anyway, but in 1991, an arbitrator awarded him $30,000 in backpay after reviewing the complaint he filed after he was wrongfully cut.

What a world.