We last heard from Jets quarterback Erik Ainge, when he entered drug rehabilitation in August and was placed on the reserved/non-football illness list.
Now eight months sober, he has a remarkable story to tell. We highly recommend checking out Ainge’s entire interview with Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com.
Ainge says he’s been a drug addict since before high school, with the problem escalating as he got older. He’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and is speaking out now in an effort to bring awareness to mental health and addiction.
“My addiction is with the hardest of hard drugs — heroin, cocaine and alcohol. During my days of using, I was a really bad drug addict. I would’ve made Charlie Sheen look like Miss Daisy,” Ainge told Cimini.
He said he had a massive painkillers addiction problem before he reached the NFL and was drafted in the fifth round. The story highlights how tricky the pre-draft process can be.
Did the Jets know about Ainge’s problems before or after the draft? If they didn’t know, it raises a lot of questions about drug-testing procedures in the league. If they did tacitly know, it raises questions about whether they did enough to help him.
“I was under the influence pretty much every day, every practice,” Ainge said. “I mean, I was a drug addict, so it’s not like I stopped using drugs for any reason. Did the Jets know? I don’t know. That’s all they knew me as. I was a drug addict from the first day I stepped foot on the Hofstra campus [site of the team's training base until 2009].”
Early in his Jets career, Ainge was suspended for four games. At the time, ESPN reported he took a banned diuretic he got from a girlfriend. Ainge says it was really for Adderall.
In 2009 when he was taking a lot of heroin, Ainge checked into a detox center. This was unreported at the time. He held things together enough to keep his spot on the team before going on a two week bender last summer. He got in trouble with the law.
“It never got reported because the cops were Tennessee fans, and they saw how bad a shape I was in. . . . I was cuffed, but instead of busting me, the cops called somebody in town that knew me,” Ainge said.
Out of rehab, Ainge has been living with his uncle Danny, who is the G.M. of the Boston Celtics.
“I see what kind of man he is, and that’s what I want to be someday,” Ainge said.
It will be an uphill climb for Erik Ainge to get a job with the Jets or probably any NFL team again. He seems to understand there are bigger goals to achieve.
“As far as my future in football, it remains uncertain,” Ainge said. “After eight months, I’m just trying to stay clean and be a better person. It’s not like I’m fine and I’m cured and I’m ready to go, gung-ho, back at it. I want this to be the last time that I ever have to try to get clean, and I’m going slowly.”