BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 02/20/2020

Thiel: NFL deal means more in pot, and more pot

Pending ratification by the players, NFL owners have signed off on a 10-year extension of the CBA, including advancing into the 21th century regarding marijuana.

In a new collective bargaining agreement, NFL owners reportedly have decriminalized the use of marijuana by players. /

Preliminary congratulations are in order for the NFL and its players union. The sides apparently have agreed upon a new, 10-year collective bargaining agreement without public threats of a strike or other unseemly caterwauling. If you want to join the celebration, party favors should include a big, fat doobie.

Nothing is official yet, but owners voted to approve the deal Thursday in New York. According to, the 32 players representatives will vote Friday in a conference call, and if it passes by a two-thirds majority, the proposal would go to the players for a final vote, requiring a simple majority.

Upon passage, several elements could be implemented ahead of the March 18 start of free agency, including a $5 million bump in the salary cap for each team. Reportedly, the pending expansion of the playoff field from 12 to 14, which would push the the Super Bowl to the end of February, could happen as soon as this year. Down the road, another part of the plan is to add a 17th game (and drop a preseason game — hallelujah!).

Buried in the details is a non-cash change for players that is a matter of, well, high intrigue — a liberalization of the marijuana policy to the point where one could see the NFL finally entering the 21st century.

According to Pro Football Talk, the proposal shrinks the current testing period for marijuana from April 20/early August to just two weeks. Those two weeks haven’t been disclosed, but two weeks . . . if a player can’t stay clean ahead of that window, he needs to get an internship at the Real Wellness by Ricky Williams pot store and play to his strengths that don’t include football.

The proposed change isn’t a full legalization — we all know that a sober, saintly figure such as Cowboys owner Jerry Jones wouldn’t tolerate such an outrage — but a PFT source said penalties for a positive test would dramatically decrease, with suspensions happening only in the repeated disregard of the policy, or significant violations of applicable law regarding possession.

You know, like OL Greg Robinson, the No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft by the St. Louis Rams, getting busted by the feds in Texas this week with 157 pounds of marijuana in his rental car. After the Cleveland Browns let him go into free agency, Brown was going to be an unrestricted free agent until he won the annual Malik McDowell Award for Inexplicable Career Sabotage.

Snark aside, the decriminalization of marijuana in the NFL is a big health deal. All players must manage chronic pain. Some choose opioids, and athletes are as prone to addiction as ordinary folks.

When it comes to grim consequences of football, concussions get most of the attention, but opioid abuse will be the next crisis. The NFL is trying to get ahead of it a bit by allowing choices in self-medication, particularly now that medical usage of marijuana is legal in many states.

As to the non-medical big picture of the pending CBA, the NFL hasn’t increased its playoff field since 1990, which, for a greedy league, shows some discipline. So even though the current 12-team set-up works well in keeping out the un-pedigreed, the one-team bump per conference is hardly an over-reach.

The biggest competitive loss is the reduction of first-round byes from two to one, in order to allow three games on wild-card weekend of seeds 2-v-7, 3-v-6 and 4-v-5, all of which become attractive sweeteners for the TV networks in the next negotiations.

Even though the Seahawks in their playoff history have never been a two-seed, the opportunity for a week’s rest in January always was a powerful incentive to keep going hard in December. In January, the NFC’s No. 2 spot went to San Francisco, which lounged about as the fifth-seeded Seahawks traveled to Philadelphia, then Green Bay, where they were ousted. The Niners beat the Vikings and Packers, both at home, to reach the Super Bowl. As much as it is about who you play, it is also about when you play.

Regarding money, reported the players get a one percent bump from the current CBA in the annual share of total revenue, to 48 percent. When the 17th game is adopted, perhaps by 2022, the share goes to 48.5 percent. The latter would shift to the players more than $5 billion in gross revenues over the life of the CBA.

When the 17th game arrives, the new deal reportedly will require each team to play a game out of the U.S. or in an American city that doesn’t have an NFL team, like San Antonio, or perhaps Columbus and Ann Arbor.

The Seahawks have traveled abroad only once, in 2018, to London. But the NFL has ambitions to play more regular-season games in Mexico, Canada, and elsewhere in Europe, and perhaps Japan, China and South America. Since the Seahawks were 7-1 on the road last season, let me be the first to suggest the Colosseum in Rome. What a great Throwback Sunday doubleheader, starting with a Christians v. Lions rematch.

The biggest news is that, barring the unexpected, NFL owners and players, who have yet to figure out pass interference, nevertheless figured out how to look like smart business people.


  • Macfunk

    The 17th game in . . . Vancouver! And how about showing some love for all those Alaska Seahawkers – December under the northern lights :).

    • jafabian

      I have always thought to make exhibition games more relevant they should play some in non-NFL cities. Think of the turnout if the Hawks could play in Portland, Spokane or (wait for it) Vancouver.

      • art thiel

        They used to do it a lot. But when the money got more serious, I think the NFL was scared off by substandard facilities.

        • Husky73

          The Christians and the Lions play annually up here in Lynden. It’s a big deal, worthy of a journalistic visit.

      • Kirkland

        The Seahawks did have an exhibition game in Vancouver in 1998. There was controversy because CFL legend Warren Moon was on the team then and the fans came to see him, but he didn’t play much because of his holdout. The Hawks also played a regular season game in Toronto against the Bills in 2012.

        I agree about non-NFL cities hosting preseason games. My idea involves a three-game preseason: one home (with discounted tickets), one road, and one neutral-site, such as Austin, Lincoln, Tallahassee, etc.

    • art thiel

      In a second. What’s the biggest stadium in Anchorage? 5.000? Perfect.

      • Husky73


  • jafabian

    I thought the NFL wouldn’t even broach the subject of marijuana unless at least half the US fully legalized it. Even if they embrace it I don’t know if the League is too swift on letting Robinson back in anytime soon after being found with Santa’s toy sack full of weed.

    • art thiel

      Players demanded it, and it remains an offense if it’s abused. Better than opioids, which are legal.

  • coug73

    WOW. A 10 year CBA! Ten years is a long time to commit to a CBA.

  • Effzee

    Diluting the playoffs with another mediocre team isn’t great, but I love the result of the SB being pushed back to late Feb, because not-football season is just the worst. Especially for sports fans in Seattle, where, unless you’re a fan of soccer, there isn’t anything to pay attention to anymore. It will be nice when the NHL arrives, giving us a second major league team to watch.

    • 2nd place is 1st loser

      If only MLB would award a professional baseball franchise to Seattle.

      • Effzee

        If only.

      • art thiel

        Rainiers are 30 miles away. Unless they’re already in Seattle.

    • art thiel

      The NFL will eat any calendar it lands on. February is easy, an empty frontier.

    • rosetta_stoned

      The Seattle Seawolves – two-time, defending Major League Rugby Champs – beg to differ.

      • Effzee

        OMG, whats next?! You’re going to suggest calling the Seattle Storm and the WNBA ”major” too, aren’t you? We can’t just keep calling everything as good as everything else, man. Where do you draw the line?!?

        • art thiel

          The favored terms are “popular” and “niche.”

  • Kevin Lynch

    Never believe a contract until the ink is dry on the page. But if the player reps vote for it, and that’s a maybe, then I would imagine you could get 50% of the vote from the tribe at large.

    • art thiel

      Apparently the league is well ahead of the players on acceptance. is often the propaganda machine for the owners.

  • WestCoastBias79

    The 17th game done that way makes sense, because at first glance I thought that half the league would be getting screwed out of a home game with the odd number. The marijuana news is great. I have spinal stenosis (the thing that ended Kam Chancellor’s career–mine’s from age and genetics, not football), and weed is the greatest pain killer there is. You can dose it where it takes the pain while reducing inflammation without getting high, and without toasting your liver, something you can’t really say about any other drug.

  • tor5

    The pot thing is cool. I’m not sure that the research on pot and pain relief is very solid, but still. It’s a silly thing to punish players (or anyone) for. But I hate the other changes. The biggest threat to players is brain injury. Now they want to agree to everyone banging heads one more time each season? And the best thing for brain repair is good sleep. So now they want to add flights to Tokyo to mess up players’ sleep patterns? And to increase periods of prolonged sitting (another health risk) just before and after games? This is all very shortsighted. They’re ignoring the biggest threat to the league for a few more bucks. No surprise, but disappointing.

    • art thiel

      It’s well-paid gladitorial combat. Young men will line up for miles for a chance. Few care about risks.

      • tor5

        So true. But proposed changes are squarely at odds with the league’s spin about concern and making the game safer.

  • Kirkland

    I heard an interview with a former player who mentioned keeping a jar by his bed for when he had to wake up to go to the bathroom, but was too sore to actually walk to the bathroom in time. If that doesn’t show you the need for more benign pain treatments than opioids, nothing will.

    I also injured my thumb recently, and was prescribed a couple of opioid painkillers (which I didn’t need, thankfully, over-the-counter Advil was sufficient). If a layman gets opioids for a comparatively minor injury, what pro athletes and chronically ill people must get access to is frightening to contemplate.

    • art thiel

      It’s the kind of self-medication that players don’t like to talk about. Makes them feel foolish or weak.

  • Drew Griffin

    I have been living with two different types of serious cancer for many years. I have had four life-saving surgeries and undergone countless rounds of chemo & radiation, all very painful and nauseating. I have been prescribed a pharmacy of opiods over the years which, when no longer needed caused horrible dependency withdrawl, I can saw without any hesitation that cannabis has been my saving grace. I have used cannabis for pain management, to stimulate my appetite when I wasn’t hungry, to help me get needed sleep to recover, and to help improve my mood when all I could think about was the siuation I was facing at the time. I am not advocating for people to pick up a bong and go crazy, but I speak from many years of experience, medical marijuana works and does not have the same damaging effects as opiods.

    • Husky73

      Drew, I am sorry to hear this. My wife is a 3-time cancer survivor and I understand the post surgery and post chemo struggles. I hope that you are recovering and wish you health and happiness in 2020.

      • Drew Griffin

        Thank you very much, I hope your wife is doing well!

        • Husky73

          She was told in 1984 that she may not have six months. Today her first (of five) grandchildren is getting ready to graduate high school.

    • art thiel

      Thanks for sharing, Drew. I hope more people understand the virtue and value of marijuana. Sure, it’s fun. But it’s a big health deal for many.

  • Husky73

    Only fitting in that the Doobie Brothers made the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year.

  • Archangelo Spumoni

    Many MANY years ago when J Michael Kenyon was hosting a talk show on the “old” KVI, some caller was furious about ballplayers being suspended for drug violations.
    J Michael’s quick and appropriate response was “MY GOD–MAN–have you seen the COLLISIONS those people get in?”
    J Michael would have some interesting observations on this one. I miss him.

    • art thiel

      J Michael had a pharmaceutical answer for everything.