Most people know the story by now. Highly-projected pass-rusher Randy Gregory used marijuana and failed his drug test at the NFL Combine in February. As a result, there’s been speculation that his draft stock could drop (it may), and some people have even gone so far as to say he’ll fall all the way to the second round (he won’t).
As a society, America is moving away from the criminalization of marijuana. It started with medical marijuana, which people can now get all over the place, and most recently moved to recreational marijuana in a few states—Colorado, Washington and Alaska. Even these aren’t full-blown legalizations, as there are a handful of restrictions, but marijuana use there is seen in much the same way alcohol use is seen in other states.
The shift in perception of marijuana is important, because Gregory is now at a crossroads. Though he’s not the best pass-rusher in the draft, there’s no denying he’s a terrific player. Ten years ago, he would have been breaking the law everywhere. He still broke it in Nebraska, but people aren’t as quick to judge now as they once were.
In fact, there’s a chance his draft stock may not fall at all. Teams will just look at the tape and decide if he can play or not. They won’t be too worried about what he does off the field. This is seen as a minor violation in most circles, and it definitely won’t impact his play on the field. Plus, legalization may be a trend that spreads everywhere.
How crazy would it be to pass up on a talented player at one of the most important positions in the game because of something that could be legal in the entire U.S. before his career is over?
There’s still one reason why this matters, though, and why it matters a lot: Gregory knew the test was coming. Everyone knew. This wasn’t a secret and it wasn’t random. He knew, and he then broke the law, as it stands in Nebraska, anyway. Knowing he could get caught.
There’s only one way to look at it — Gregory didn’t care. He didn’t care about getting caught as much as he cared about smoking.
And that’s cause for concern, because it speaks to his mindset. It speaks to what he holds most important in his life. This was a time when everything he did should have been about football and nothing but football. If the game is his No. 1 priority, he should put nothing before it.
It doesn’t matter what Gregory thinks about the law. It doesn’t matter if he thinks of smoking pot the way most people think of going 60 in a 55. It doesn’t matter what the law says in 10 years or what it says right now in Colorado, Washington and Alaska. As far as the NFL is concerned, marijuana is still banned. Everywhere. That goes for the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos, just like it goes for everyone else. There’s no difference.
And that’s the law that Gregory has to follow, the set of rules that he has to embrace. He can’t afford distractions. He can’t afford to let his desire to party with his friends or even smoke on his own come before his desire to give everything he can on the field.
Cleveland Browns wide receiver Josh Gordon has gotten himself into a world of trouble for drinking alcohol, which is completely legal, but which was banned in accordance with his punishment for other violations. He did it anyway, and his career may be over.
Teams see that. They see where Gordon’s loyalty lies. It’s not even about the law at all. It’s about the fact that, for all of Gordon’s talent, he won’t touch the field come Sunday afternoon.
Gregory’s stock won’t fall because teams think using marijuana is horrible. It will fall because he put it before the game and he did it even though he knew he was going to get caught.
Still, he’s such a talent that the fall won’t be very far.