Published September 18, 2012 - 8:41pm
NEW: Discuss this topic in the Google+ community for SEC fans.
If you ask your average sports writer what the most controversial thing going on in football right now, they are sure to launch into a soliloquy regarding the NFL replacement refs. The NFL is greedy! They’re ruining the game! They don’t care about health. Stop it, already. The replacement refs are fine.
While the media grandstands about refereeing, an important and controversial story within the SEC is going largely unnoticed.
That story is about Missouri’s quarterback James Franklin and his unwillingness to take a painkilling cortisone shot last week for his injured shoulder. By refusing the injection, he was choosing not to play in the Arizona State game.
Despite winning the game, his coach Gary Pinkel essentially called him out in the post-game press conference:
“It was too painful for him, and he didn’t want to play… (I) was hoping James could play, but he didn’t feel like he could do it.”
Pinkel has of course backtracked and said that he wasn’t taking a dig at Franklin, but when you hint at a lack of toughness when it comes to football, there’s no way around it. You’re taking a dig at your player.
Franklin handled the dig with grace and didn’t inflame the situation. His dad then told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch the following:
“Guys are medicating themselves and running into 300-pound people, and now your body is numb to it, and then after your career is over it comes back at you and you can’t even spend time with your families because your body’s breaking down,” said Willie Franklin. “So one of the things we want to do in our family is look after ourselves, stay healthy. It’s self-preservation. There is life after sports. One day you want to have a family and enjoy your kids so you look after yourself. You take care of yourself. So any decision he makes, I support him 100 percent.”
For anyone to criticize a young college kid for refusing to take medication to numb the pain is ridiculous. For a fan who sits on his butt 7 days a week to criticize a kid who takes hits throughout the year for not being tough is so stupid, it’s not worth even arguing.
Earlier today, Franklin chimed back in the conversation via his Instagram account:
I want to feel the pain so I know when something is wrong. I don’t like taking pills and I don’t like getting injected. I never knew not wanting to do those things was such a big deal. Just like many of you were, I was raised to say no to drugs.
Pinkel clearly stepped in it with his post-game words, but there’s a bigger issue here. The bigger issue is painkillers in football, and unfortunately, it doesn’t feel like this story is getting the traction necessary to get a real conversation going about the issue.
Last year, ESPN did a great Outside the Lines segment regarding the abuse of painkillers by NFL players – specifically, retired NFL players. In conjunction with the episode, ESPNNewYork.com interviewed former Tennessee quarterback Erik Ainge. As Ainge explained to ESPN, he was addicted to painkillers throughout a big portion of his career at Tennessee and during his stint with the New York Jets.
Throughout that process, I became hooked on pain killers. I got them from the team doctor. I went through the prescriptions pretty fast. After he had been giving them to me for quite a while, he said he couldn’t give them to me anymore.
I was hooked on them and I was playing football, and there was no way I was going to cancel my senior year by going to rehab. I started getting them from people, buying them, getting them off the street. I wasn’t the only player on the team that was doing it, so we knew people. It wasn’t, like, super sketchy or anything. We knew people who had them, and we were Tennessee football players, so they pretty much just gave them to us.
After a point, it got so bad that I was in the throes of addiction pretty quickly. That led to … one drug to the next drug to the next drug. Then I moved up to New York with a bunch of money, and it was where everything started falling apart.
My drug problem went from bad to worse. My rookie year, I failed a drug test for taking Adderall and got suspended four games. Adderall is like Ritalin, an amphetamine. I started taking Adderall back in high school, just to stay awake — a lot of kids take it.
But most of my rookie year, it was painkillers — and lots of them. I was taking 25 Percocets at a time. Five hours later, I’d do it again. Another eight hours, and I’d do it again. A drug dealer, a guy I knew, had them. There were other social, party drugs I would do, but I was addicted to painkillers.
Recently, former USC Trojan Armond Armstead sued his former school saying team doctors gave him painkillers which caused a heart attack and damaged his future earning potential.
It’s a disturbing aspect of college football that does not get enough coverage. What happens in the team locker rooms and training facilities is far away from cameras and reporters. Kudos to Erik Ainge and James Franklin for not being afraid of discussing this issue in the open.
A young 18-year old kid trusts his trainer. These kids want to play. When they’re injured, they want to get back on the field. Look at Tyler Wilson last week as an example.
I’m hard pressed to suggest that the NCAA get involved in this arena, since I don’t think the NCAA can really do anything well, but painkillers in football – especially college football – is something that needs to be discussed.
As conferences like the SEC take on the concussion issue, painkiller abuse should be a topic discussed right there with it.
Unfortunately, the media drives much of the discussion when it comes to these types of issues, and right now the media wants to fix the missed pass interference call in the Monday Night Football game from last night.