Former NFL quarterback Ray Lucas struggled with addiction to painkiller medication that he received while recovering from football-related injuries, but he doesn't hold the league responsible, he told The New York Times on Saturday.
"I don't think of my addiction as an NFL problem," Lucas told The Times, via ProFootballTalk.com. "It's my problem. It's true that my tolerance grew because I took painkillers when I was hurt, but the fact is that I chose to take those pills. I want other people to know that if they see their tolerance growing, rather than just upping the number of pills, talk to a doctor to figure out what's really going on and what the best steps are for you."
Many former players are suing the NFL, alleging that the league did not do enough to protect them from concussions; one such suit was filed in Atlanta on May 3. On Friday, former Dallas Cowboys fullback Daryl Johnston said the issue of proactive medical treatment -- particularly neurological examinations -- is even more important to retired football players than concussion lawsuits.
"It was after a series of injuries playing in the NFL that I was taking prescription painkillers," Lucas, an eight-year veteran, who played for the Baltimore Ravens, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets and New England Patriots, told The Times. "After having major back surgery, I tried to stop taking the painkillers, and thatâs when I first experienced withdrawal."
Lucas said he has no regrets about playing the game and added that sports are important for children.
"I wouldn't change my past for a moment and wouldnât be where I am today without football. Competitive sports are good for kids; there are life lessons that go far beyond the football field."