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5 NFL players who successfully tackled drug addictions

Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller
Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller
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Adam Hulse

NFL players are at an extremely high risk for drug addiction and dependency, according to a research study published in the scientific journal, Drug and Alcohol Dependence. They are more at risk than most because of the violent nature of the sport, which often requires surgeries and recoveries with common prescriptions for opioids and other painkillers.

Drug addiction is one of the darker sides of football and unfortunately many players, former and current, have struggled with it. On the bright side, many have recovered and overcome it.

Some of these recovering players have chosen to make their story public. They hope that by sharing their experience, they can help others in the same situation. Here are five NFL players who came out on top against drug addiction.

#1 - Brett Favre

Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre
Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre

Brett Favre has been open and honest about his struggles with addiction to painkillers during his career. He claims he was prescribed them during the 1994 season while recovering from shoulder surgery and admits he got hooked. Favre has said he used them daily for about two years and even had several seizures during his dark time.

In a 2016 interview with Graham Bensinger, Favre said:

“I knew that I didn’t necessarily need [Vicodin] but I sure liked the way it felt, I knew it was wrong.”

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Favre attended rehab and eventually overcame the dependancy. He claimed his breaking point was following the 1996 season, when he decided to commit to sobriety. Favre is a legend of the sport and retired with 71,831 passing yards, 508 touchdowns, 336 interceptions and one Super Bowl victory.

He has been sober for more than 20 years and says he has never gone back to using painkillers.

#2 - Johnny Manziel

Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel
Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel

Johnny Manziel has publicly battled a party lifestyle from which he developed a dependency problem. He has claimed in recent years, looking back at his failed run with the Cleveland Browns, that his addiction contributed to his demise in the NFL.

In an interview with ABC News the former quarterback said:

"I was self-medicating with alcohol. That’s what I thought would make me happy and get out of that depression,"
**VIDEO** This morning on @GMA ... Johnny Manziel talked about his mistakes that kept him out of the NFL, his past alcohol addiction and his recent bipolar diagnosis https://t.co/KYxVAXq6x0

Thankfully, he is sober and healthier now and currently plays quarterback in the Fan Controlled Football League. He is committed to this lifestyle and is firmly focused on his new football career.

#3 - Darren Waller

Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller
Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller

Darren Waller struggled with drugs and alcohol while playing college football and was forced to attend outpatient rehabs. He admits he used to cheat on his drug tests to get by. His issues followed him to the NFL after being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, as he was suspended twice in his first three years in the league for violating the substance abuse policy.

He opened up about his past on episode 3 of Hard Knocks in 2019:

I was getting high, literally, every day. Whatever I could get my hands on.”

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While being suspended for the entire 2017 season, Waller decided to check himself into inpatient rehab. It apparently worked for him, as he has remained sober from that point forward. He picked up a job at a grocery store before being reinstated to the NFL, where he was picked up by the Las Vegas Raiders. He is now one of the top tight ends in the league. During his career he has caught 163 passes for 1,988 yards and 7 receiving touchdowns.

#4 - Maxx Crosby

Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby
Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Maxx Crosby

Maxx Crosby claims to have struggled with alcohol addiction during his high school and college football careers. It eventually carried over into his NFL career, until he made a decision following the 2020 season that he wanted to get help.

He checked himself into rehab and transitioned to a sober house after that, while missing the entire 2021 offseason. He came back better than ever, elevating himself to one of the most destructive pass rushers in the league.

Crossby's career stats include 142 total tackles, 25 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 1 fumble recoveries and 12 pass deflections.

#5 - Randy Gregory

Dallas Cowboys edge rusher Randy Gregory
Dallas Cowboys edge rusher Randy Gregory

Randy Gregory tested positive for marijuana during the NFL Combine prior to being selected by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2015 NFL Draft. He would continue to struggle with substance abuse, being suspended four times in his first five years and missing a total of 54 games because of it.He told Fishsports:

"Addiction can happen to anybody. Young, old, man, woman, rich, poor. Anybody."
Not long ago, I was talking w #Cowboys Randy Gregory. ‘One thing I’ve learned on this journey.’ he said, ‘is (addiction) can happen to anybody. Young, old, man, woman, rich, poor. Anybody.’And now his journey contributes. https://t.co/dX6zIbBPXC

He appears to have cleaned up his act since then. He stayed out of trouble for the entire 2021 season despite being tested multiple times.Last season he recorded six sacks and three forced fumbles. Gregory signed a brand new contract with the Denver Broncos during the 2022 offseason.

Edited by John Maxwell
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