HOUSTON — Arizona Cardinals receiver and Minneapolis native Larry Fitzgerald Jr. had interesting takes on a couple of hot-button NFL issues this morning during an hour-long fan forum session featuring the three Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year finalists and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
About 100 fans, most of them from Houston, were allowed to partake in the question-and-answer session at the House of Blues a couple of blocks away from the Super Bowl week festivities.
One fan asked Goodell if the league would ever stop suspending players for marijuana use.
“What we do is rely on our medical experts, and we have joint medical experts between the players’ association and the league,” Goodell said. “To date, those medical advisers have not recommended that we change our policy to permit marijuana use. Obviously, we’re aware of the fact that marijuana use, particularly in medical areas, is something that there’s a lot of research behind. And we’ll follow that closely. If for some reason we believe that there’s a potential change that can benefit our players and it’s medically supported with research and facts, then we will certainly consider that.
“But I do know that the players’ association is looking at this also, and they may be presenting to us in the context of the next CBA.”
Then Fitzgerald chimed in with an answer that suggested he doesn’t approve of permitting marijuana use and has little sympathy for the dimwits who get caught.
“You got to look at the bigger picture though, man,” Fitzgerald said. “We’re up here on the stage, playing at an elite level. There are so many kids watching us and trying to emulate us. And for guys to get in trouble for drug use, [the NFL] only tests us two times a year for illegal drugs. For steroids up to 12. So guys that are getting caught [for marijuana use], you’re not using common sense. You know what I mean?”
The audience laughed. Then Panthers tight end Greg Olsen, seated next to Fitzgerald as a fellow Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year finalist, put the awkward exclamation point on the conversation by saying, “There you go.”
Another question dealt with reducing the number of preseason games, which has been something Goodell has endorsed for years now. Fitzgerald made a good argument for keeping four preseason games.
He looked left to Olsen and right to Giants quarterback Eli Manning, the other finalist, and said:
“We’re all first-round draft picks up here. But the league is 50 percent free agent guys. So those four preseason games allows those guys to be able to put themselves on tape, not only for the team they’re playing for but the 31 other teams.
“If we limit the preseason games to two, we [the starters] are going to have to play a lot more and those other guys are not going to have any ability or time to go out there and hone their skills. Late in the season, when we’re banged up, those are the guys who are coming in and filling in for us and carrying us to where we want to go. So it’s important not to leave those guys out.”