NFL players are often viewed under a microscope and expected to be a good example for fans and children. However, athletes are humans too, and they have their own vices. One issue that regularly comes up involves drinking alcohol before games.
Although it’s not the norm, NFL players are under a tremendous amount of pressure. Though coaches get angry at players who drink, some athletes have admitted they’ve done it. The following NFL players finally confirmed it, whether to the press, a coach, or a family member.
1. Josh Gordon
Josh Gordon is open about his past drinking and drug abuse. CBS Sports quotes him as saying, “I would have these pre-made little shots … I used to make a ritual of it before every game.” His drink of choice was usually Grand Marnier.
In an admirable display of vulnerability, Gordon admits he either drank or used drugs before every game of his NFL career. He describes himself as a functioning alcoholic. Despite his extensive drinking, he was never caught by a coach.
2. Cris Carter
Cris Carter has been open about his battles with drugs and alcohol. In 1988, the wide receiver was caught and suspended temporarily from competitive play after failing multiple drug tests. A member of the Eagles, Vikings, and Dolphins during his prolific career, Carter has admitted often drunk during games. Currently clean, the 53-year-old attributes the positive change in his life to his spirituality.
3. Barret Robbins
Barret Robbins helped lead the Oakland Raiders to a Super Bowl and made the Pro Bowl in 2002. He sometimes got drunk before games. In fact, Robbins got so drunk the night before the Super Bowl that he thought they’d already won the game before they got on the field. As a result of his binge drinking (and not taking his medication), he didn’t play at all in the Super Bowl, despite being a starter.
4. Ken Stabler
Ken “The Snake” Stabler was known as much for his partying and womanizing as he was for his ability to evade opponents during long punt returns. The quarterback was always a big drinker. In high school, he even got caught stealing hubcaps off cars in order to fund a beer run with his friends.
Unsurprisingly, Stabler drank before games. He admitted to his heavy drinking habit multiple times, typically drinking to get rid of a hangover from the night before. The drinking didn’t affect Stabler’s play significantly — he was never caught — as he’s widely regarded as one of the best players of his time. Stabler was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.
5. Bobby Layne
Quarterback Bobby Layne played in the NFL for 15 seasons and led the Lions to three Super Bowl victories. He was also known for having a shot of whiskey during halftime of each game. Players and coaches alike tolerated his regular drinking habit because he was such an excellent player.
6. Clinton Portis
“Prior to the game, on our way, we would take a little shot,” Clinton Portis told the Washington Post, referencing how the NFL running back and a few teammates made light drinking a pregame ritual. According to Portis, he drank a shot of Hennessy before games to boost his adrenaline.
Some players use visualization, others play a favorite song, but Portis and a few teammates used alcohol to get in the zone before the starting whistle. Portis and his teammate Santana Moss got their teammates in on the pregame ritual. As a result, their coach accosted the players about it, though he didn’t ban it outright.
7. Santana Moss
Moss drinks a shot before games because it reminds him to take playing less seriously. In his own words, “And that was just kind of having fun. You know what, let’s take that stress out of our heads and say let’s just have fun and not care so much. Because sometimes as players, you put so much pressure on yourself to go out there and perform. Man, let’s relax.”
The wide receiver’s light drinking habit before the game may actually be beneficial. It’s easy for athletes to get caught up in the competition. While we’re sure any fan or player alike can vouch for the importance of “giving it your all,” it’s also important to remember you’re playing a game. In other words, it’s not good for a player’s mental health or performance to put themselves under undue stress.