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Commentary: Ryan Leaf needs help rather than ridicule

Ryan LeafMedicineJustice System

But we start by putting our Bud Light Spotlight on Ryan Leaf – arrested on Friday in Montana on burglary and drug possession charges.

Before Husky fans cackle or Coug fans shake their heads, I ask for a minute of reflection about how serious the situation is.

Ryan Leaf needs professional help. It’s a matter of life and death.

Let me be clear, I am not a Ryan Leaf apologist. He has often been an embarrassment to Cougar Nation since his immature, ego-centric days as an NFL rookie. He’s often acted entitled. He pled guilty to seven counts of obtaining prescription drugs by fraud four years ago. And he’s now allegedly broken the law again.

But Leaf is fighting an addiction that threatens his life. And piling-on the hatred based on rivalry lines alone is ignorant and cowardly.

In October, when Leaf went on a media tour to promote his book, “596 Switch,” he commendably faced the music. He showed a growing maturity, answering questions about his failures and drug addiction with sincere, thoughtful answers. When he joined us on “Q It Up Sports,” no question was out of bounds.

In the last year, Leaf also had a brain tumor removed and he underwent two months of radiation as well. So don’t tell me the former Cougar quarterback has had it anywhere close to easy.

But given the details of the latest incident in Montana, it’s clear that Leaf is not well - that he’s reverted back to his old ways. Personally, I’m glad he got caught – not because he was breaking the law, but because it might have helped save his life. In the past, he’s admitted to gobbling pills by the handful on a daily basis  – who knows what path he was headed this time around.

This isn’t the time to hop on the rivalry bandwagon, by making jokes with Ryan Leaf punch lines. Anyone who’s had an addiction, or at least seen the effects of one on a relative or friend should understand.

I often blast athletes and coaches for making the wrong decisions, and making the same mistakes twice. But rarely do we find situations that involve one’s well-being. What Ryan Leaf was allegedly doing again was wrong and illegal and he should face jail time. But he also needs professional help.

I won’t argue whether addiction is a disease or if it can be cured by simply making a choice, and sticking to it with strong will and responsibility. But I will argue that consistent clinical help is the best path to recovery.

And that’s what I hope Ryan Leaf gets. Because he doesn’t deserve to die. 

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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