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NFL figures say league should keep open mind on medical marijuana

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll speaks during a news conference at Newport in New Jersey, January 27, 2014. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll speaks during a news conference at Newport in New Jersey, January 27, 2014. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

By Scott Malone

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The coach of the Super Bowl-bound Seattle Seahawks on Monday echoed the NFL commissioner's assertion that the league should not rule out allowing players to use medical marijuana to manage pain, if medical science supports the idea.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters the National Football League should be open to use of the drug, currently banned by its rules, if doctors broadly come around to the idea.

"We have to explore and find ways to make our game a better game and take care of our players in whatever way possible," Carroll told reporters as his team prepared for Sunday's championship game against the Denver Broncos. "Regardless of what other stigmas might be involved, we have to do this because the world of medicine is doing this."

Carroll's words followed comments by Commissioner Roger Goodell last week that the league would follow the lead of doctors in determining whether to drop its opposition to players' use of the drug.

"I'm not a medical expert," Goodell said, according to comments reported in USA Today. "We will obviously follow signs. We will follow medicine and if they determine this could be a proper usage in any context, we will consider that ... Our medical experts are not saying that right now."

Marijuana is illegal in the United States under federal law, but 20 U.S. states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana use. Colorado and Washington, the home states of the Broncos and Seahawks, have legalized recreational marijuana for adults.

U.S. public perceptions of the drug's dangers have changed markedly in recent years, evidenced by President Barack Obama's statement earlier this month that he viewed the drug as "a vice" no more dangerous than tobacco or alcohol.

While high-ranking league officials kicked the idea around, players were more guarded in expressing opinions on the idea.

When asked about Goodell's comments at a news conference, Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton's first response was, "It's illegal right now and it's something against the rules, so I stay away from that."

Pushed as to whether the drug could help players manage the chronic pain that is a regular part of the intensely physical game, he allowed "It may be helpful, but it is also something that can be abused."

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Steve Orlofsky)

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