On Wednesday, the Ravens released Eugene Monroe, and the team certainly had several possible reasons for doing do. As an article at the team’s website noted, Monroe had Baltimore’s highest base salary for this season, he’s missed 15 games since 2013 and the Ravens drafted a tackle, Ronnie Stanley, with the No. 6 overall pick in April’s draft.
However, another passage from that article pointed to an additional explanation for Monroe’s departure from Baltimore.
Monroe had surgery to repair a torn labrum (shoulder) this offseason, and used the time off to become the first active NFL player to openly campaign for the use of medical marijuana. The Ravens did not rally behind the cause.
“I promise you, he does not speak for the organization,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said this offseason.
Monroe doubled-down on his pledge to keep advocating for marijuana in a Twitter post on Thursday.
Monroe has become the NFL’s foremost advocate of medical marijuana, recently penning his own article on the topic for The Players’ Tribune. “I’m calling for the NFL and the NFLPA to take three actions: 1) Remove marijuana from the banned substances list. 2) Fund medical marijuana research, especially as it relates to CTE. 3) Stop overprescribing addictive and harmful opioids,” he wrote in that piece.
“To this point, I understand why no one but me as an active player has said anything about it,” Monroe told The Post’s Adam Kilgore in early June. “It’s a banned substance in our league. Speaking about it can honestly ruin someone’s career if the wrong team gets wind of it and has adverse opinions on it.”
Shortly after that, Monroe indicated that he was well aware Baltimore’s organization was not exactly 100 percent behind him on this issue. “@Ravens continue to distance themselves from me and my cause. I invite you all to do some research. I won’t stop. This is for my brothers,” he said via Twitter.
I don't say these things to slander the @NFL or my team. I say them because we need a solution. We need change in our health care.
— Eugene Monroe (@MrEugeneMonroe) June 10, 2016
“I can’t say for sure whether or not my stance on medical cannabis was the reason the Ravens released me,” Monroe told the New York Times. “However, as I’ve said in the past, they have distanced themselves from me and made it clear that they do not support my advocacy.”
It is possible that, even if Monroe’s marijuana advocacy did play a role in his release, the Ravens were mainly concerned that he would use the banned substance, fail a test and incur a suspension. When the team picked Stanley, it did so amid the draft-day plunge of a more highly regarded tackle, Laremy Tunsil, who was seen inhaling pot through a gas mask in a video released just before the event began.
Baltimore was one of 12 teams that passed on Tunsil, who, earlier in the year, had been viewed by many as a candidate to go No. 1 overall. That may have reflected a concern that Tunsil might consume marijuana while in the NFL, a concern that could also have been applied to Monroe.
From the sound of things, Monroe, the 18th overall pick in the 2009 draft, won’t stay unemployed for long, with reports linking him to the Giants, among other interested teams. Meanwhile, we may never learn what, exactly, prompted the Ravens to release Monroe when they did, but the team’s own story about it hints that the decision didn’t just boil down to salary and on-field performance.