Reefer madness hits the NFL Draft

In honor of Earth Day (it's today, so chill out on your carbon footprint for a few hours), let's talk a bit about grass. Or marijuana, as the kids are calling it these days.

In retrospect, there must've been a killer after-party at the NFL Combine, right? I mean, the Marriott in downtown Indianapolis must've felt like that scene from Dumbo each night.

If you haven't been paying close attention, according to published reports, every NFL draft pick is a drug addict. OK, not every single one, but at least a half-dozen have been named as dopers, reportedly testing positive for marijuana at the NFL Combine. Of those, follow-up reports have said that four actually didn't test positive at all. Oops. (This morning, citing two unnamed sources, Fox Sports reported that Florida's Percy Harvin and North Carolina's Brandon Tate, both wide receivers, did test positive, which hasn't been refuted or retracted as of this afternoon.)


Let's not turn this into a lecture on irresponsible reporting and anonymous sources. (Who needs an excuse to bash on sportswriters, right?) But I am curious as to how much a positive drug test should damage a prospect's chances? Should the Ravens, for example, steer clear of Harvin or Tate simply because they might've celebrated Earth Day a little early?

I'm not among those who's going to lose sleep over an athlete self-medicating with a bong. There are a lot worse things out there than an athlete sitting in his living room, watching The Hills on DVD and ordering four pizzas. For example, why should fans (or NFL GMs) wag fingers at pot smokers and smile wide for players who spend a bit too much time in clubs, a bit too much energy tipping back Red Bull and vodkas?

The Chicago Tribune had an interesting story today about Jay Cutler. Word of his passion for partying swept into the Windy City before Cutler even arrived. Are the Bears worried?

"I'm not going to micromanage a person," Bears GM Jerry Angelo told the Trib. "If we have to do that, that's not a good sign. Some lessons they have to see and learn for themselves. I don't think that's a big thing at this point. What he does on Sunday is how we're going to evaluate him. That's the bottom line. He gets it."

Obviously Cutler's case isn't identical to that of a prospect who's never played a down in the NFL. A player like Cutler has proven himself, shown that he can juggle personal choices with professional responsibilities.

Here's one more quote from Angelo, and I bet you'd find that his attitude toward Cutler is similar to what you'd hear from GMs all across the league: "When we did our research, we know he goes out, we know he does those things. We talked to our medical people, we talked to the Denver medical people. It comes with the territory. We're comfortable with it."

As it concerns prospects, it's not really an issue of smoking marijuana. When teams do their research, it isn't simply a matter of identifying bad habits and stupid behaviors. Teams are trying to understand a young man's decision-making abilities and whether risk might be a recurring theme to a player's career. This is why anyone caught smoking weed has seen his draft stock plummet these past several weeks. It's not the fact that they smoked marijuana; it's that they were stupid enough to do it in the days and weeks leading up to the NFL Combine, when they knew they'd get poked, prodded, probed and drug tested.

So forget the colorful scenes from Dumbo. That doesn't scare away NFL teams. But the bad decisions make by a couple of dumbos could make for a long NFL Draft weekend and sometimes a short NFL career.