Monroe, a veteran offensive tackle who became the first active N.F.L. player to publicly ask the league to let players use medical marijuana, will retire after seven seasons.
Eugene Monroe, a veteran offensive tackle who became the first active N.F.L. player to publicly ask the league to let players use medical marijuana, will retire after seven seasons.
In recent years, many retired players have urged the league to lift the ban on the use of medical marijuana. In March, Monroe echoed those calls, saying that medical marijuana is safer and healthier than the prescription painkillers that teams routinely give players.
Monroe’s views were not seconded by officials at the Baltimore Ravens, including head coach John Harbaugh. When Monroe was released by the team in June, he said his advocacy for medical marijuana might have played a role.
A team spokesman declined to say whether his stance on medical marijuana was part of the reason Monroe was released.
Several teams have since contacted Monroe, who said he turned down the offers. Instead, he is leaving the game because of mounting injuries and a fear that they will become debilitating if he continues to play.
“It is a very demanding sport on your body, and it’s taken a toll on me time and time again,” Monroe said, adding that he damaged both his knees, has had surgery on one of his shoulders, and has an array of chronic ailments and injuries that did not need surgery. “They have accumulated to the point that I deal with enormous pain on a daily basis. Just getting out of bed, especially during the season, can be difficult.”
Drafted in the first round in 2009 by the Jacksonville Jaguars, Monroe played regularly for most of his career. After he was traded for two draft picks to the Baltimore Ravens in 2013, his injuries mounted. Last season, he missed four games because of a severe concussion.
Monroe said he had seen the toll the game has had on several of his friends who have already retired, and he wants to end his career before his body deteriorates further and he is forced to take yet more pills to be able to keep playing.
“I don’t want to have to continue to consume pills to do that; I don’t want to do that,” he said. “Anti-inflammatories or opioids, which I certainly don’t want to take, that is certainly the option to stay within the rules of the game.”
Monroe said he will continue to advocate for players to be allowed to use medical marijuana. He said he has been in talks with the N.F.L. Players Association. The league has not softened its prohibition against medical marijuana, though Commissioner Roger Goodell said that the league’s medical advisers continue to study its uses and efficacy.
Monroe said that while he is now free to promote medical marijuana, he hopes other current players raise their voices as well. Many of them want more research on the effects of medical marijuana but are afraid to say so publicly for fear of upsetting their employers, he said.
“I’ve had conversations with my teammates and have been in conversations with players, and at the very least, they believe more research is needed to find a better option,” Monroe said. But “there is also a great amount of reluctance for people to jump out and do the same thing, and say they believe there are issues.”