On Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers training staff was subject to a surprise search by the DEA as they prepared to depart New Jersey. The 49ers were one of at least four teams to be searched. Other teams included the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Seattle Seahawks, and Detroit Lions. Former players are suing the NFL over certain illicit distributions of pain killers, and this lawsuit spurred the DEA to start taking a closer look at medical staffs.
Initially I was under the impression the 49ers and Bucs were specifically targeted, but subsequent reports indicate this is just the first of many such inspections. Whatever the case, the 49ers were in the news because of it, and players and coaches are getting questions.
The 49ers players had Monday off, while Jim Harbaugh conducted his weekly press conference. He got quite a few questions about the issue. I've posted that portion of his transcript down below. I removed some questions in between about other topics. You can read the full transcript HERE.
Players were back at the facility on Tuesday for a walkthrough, and there were questions about pain killers. Michael Wilhoite, Daniel Kilgore, and Garrett Celek were among the players discussing the topic.
It is entirely possible the league has cleaned up its act with regard to painkillers. Nothing has come of the inspections yet, but they were voluntary, and seemed to be more about checking paperwork. Jim Harbaugh said the 49ers are an open book when it comes to this issue, so we can only hope for the best. I am skeptical about the NFL and pain killers, but for now we're just left to wait and see if the DEA discovers anything. I don't expect much to come of this, but it does at least open the door for something. We'll see what comes of it.
What did you think of the DEA officials showing up after the game? That's obviously not a normal postgame occurrence.
"Haven't thought anything about it. I don't know anything about it. Don't know anything about it. I did see where my name was, I was linked with walking out with Dr. [Tim] McAdams and I were supposedly walking out of the locker room together. I don't know anything about that either. I walked out with my wife, Sarah [Harbaugh], and my daughter, Addie [Harbaugh], and I think [49ers director of communications] Bob Lange was next to us too. But was Dr. McAdams with us? ‘What's your point?' I know nothing."
What did you think of the issue when you were a player? Did you take pain killers often? Did you ever worry that would be an issue or a health concern long-term?
"I love the questions, ‘when you were a player.' I've forgotten half of my life from when I was a player."
Why do you think they picked San Francisco? They said it was at random, these drug tests. Would you care to speculate as to why they might have picked you and these other teams in particular? Would it have been that they were in large markets? Apparently there media that was alerted about this? Was there anything to suspect in this locker room? Have you ever seen anything like this in locker rooms?
"No, I have not. And to speculate, I don't know. I have no idea."
How do you respond to the fact that they even came to the 49ers? Do you take that personally?
"I don't know anything about it. So, it's hard to take anything personally."
You never saw them?
"No. I didn't see them."
Nobody's saying anything about it inside the team today? Nobody's told you anything about it? You've got to know something about it.
"I don't know anything about it. I don't. Is there a follow-up there? Do you want to follow-up on something there? I don't want to make the impression that Bob's cutting anything off here."
Well, it's just everybody's talking about it.
Well, everybody that follows the NFL. There were columns this morning talking about how the NFL has been ignoring the pain problem for decades, for generations. There are ex-players coming out. There's a lawsuit saying that they've had health complications because of this.
"We're an open book in those regards. So, any kind of scrutiny, any questions, we're an open book there."
Just a question, a general question, what do you think is the difference in the public perception of pain management in the NFL and the reality of how it's dealt with?
"I can't say that I know that for sure."
When you say it's documented like that, was it not in the past? I know you don't recall all of your playing days, but do you recall it not being inventoried that way?
"I don't know when it started. But, I know our trainer [49ers vice president of football operations] Jeff Ferguson spends a lot of time in terms of documentations and inventory because I've heard him tell me that he spends a lot of time. A lot of paperwork there. A lot of paperwork and documenting and inventorying."
And you couldn't hazard a guess to why they picked you guys?
"No. There were others, right? Maybe you can hazard a guess."
There were others. Well it's my job to ask you the question.
"Hey, we love it. I mean, that's oversight and documentation and sounds like you have a little better handle on what's taking place than I do."
They didn't ask you any questions?
"No. Don't know anything about it."
How did you find out about it?
"I read about it. Remember, I said I was supposedly walking with the doctor."
Do players play in pain or do they take medication?
"We're going to start talking about all players and every kind of ..."
Let's talk about your personal experience. You played quarterback in the NFL. Heck, I've got to take an aspirin to go play golf on Sundaymorning or an anti whatever you call it.
"Anti-inflammatory? Aspirin, etcetera."
Yeah. But, I mean from what we hear there's bigger stuff than that. Is it expected of a player to do that, to take that stuff?
"No. No, there's no expectation of that."
If it's suggested to a player and he doesn't take it, what's the response?
"It's not suggested."
It is not?
Even with a 53-man roster and people waiting, isn't there pressure on a player to--?
"As I said, I made my point. I think we've plowed this ground about as thoroughly as we can plow it. It's been plowed, it's been seeded and now it's grown. It's well documented. We're an open book in terms of how we catalog and how we dispense."