Franco Harris played in the NFL into his mid-30s, carried the ball more than 3,000 times, and often lined up as a blocking fullback on plays when he didn’t get the ball. He also played in an era of full-contact practices that would make today’s players weep. Throw in his status as a three-year starter at Penn State and his high school football career, and it’s safe to say he was in tens of thousands of collisions on the football field.
And he has something surprising to say: At age 67, he feels fine, mentally and physically.
“Even during my playing days, I really didn’t have to do anything with pain management,” Harris told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’ve never had any long-term pain. I’ve been pretty lucky all the way back to high school. I’m even more amazed that at 67 I’m not dealing with more issues.”
But Harris knows the time may come when an old football injury — or just age — catches up with him. And as a result, he’s become an advocate for marijuana as a safer painkiller than opioids.
“I will tell you this, if it ever comes to a point where I do need pain management, I’d feel very lucky and happy now that we have medicinal marijuana in Pennsylvania,” Harris said.
Harris is urging the NFL to take marijuana off its banned substance list and allow players to use it if prescribed by a doctor, which is now legal in most states.
“The NFL is reviewing its position on medical marijuana,” Harris said. “They’re really reviewing their whole pain management regimen and how those things are handled, but if you don’t mind me giving you my personal feeling, I feel in any state that has approved medical marijuana, the league should remove medical marijuana from being a banned substance. I feel that recreational marijuana should be a banned substance in the NFL, but medical marijuana has a different composition.”
As the NFL continues to face criticism over widespread use of painkillers distributed by team doctors, it’s surprising that the league hasn’t been more willing to consider permitting medical marijuana. Players like Harris speaking out may change that.