Campus Corner

MU’s Gary Pinkel talks about pot, Michael Sam and improving the offense

Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel
Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel AP

Missouri football coach Gary Pinkel was asked about marijuana and the prevalence of its use among today’s athletes Wednesday during the weekly Southeastern Conference coaches’ teleconference.

He believes there are “some real mixed messages out there,” especially with some states having legalized marijuana.

“We randomly drug test year round,” Pinkel said. “I think it’s important that we do that. Responsibly, we have to do it. It’s certainly in the best interest of the health of our student-athletes.”

Marijuana is legal for recreational use in Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Nineteen other states plus the District of Columbia permit medical marijuana and several others have decriminalized the drug, reducing penalties for possession.

Missouri isn’t among those states.

“The bottom line is it’s still illegal in the state of Missouri,” Pinkel said.

Pinkel wouldn’t be surprised if several more states legalize marijuana in the coming years, which will only deepen curiosity and temptation for young people, including college football players.

“Where is this all going to go? I don’t know,” he said. “I think it’s just as much a societal issue as it is football. But obviously, we want our players to play healthy and take care of their bodies.”

Michael Sam returns to MU

Former unanimous All-American defensive end Michael Sam announced Tuesday on Twitter that he was returning to Missouri for graduate school.

“I knew at one time prior to this that he was going to eventually want to go to grad school,” Pinkel said.

Sam, who was the first openly gay player selected in the NFL Draft when he was chosen by the Rams in the seventh round in 2014, hasn’t given up on his dream of playing football.

He was cut by the Rams and signed the Cowboys practice squad but never appeared in an NFL game.

Sam signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League in May and appeared in one game before stepping away, citing concern for his mental health.

Now, he’ll focus again on his education.

“He came by my office a week or two ago,” Pinkel said. “We talked. We didn’t really talk about the future much. We were just talking about he was still working out and what was going on.”

Getting offense in gear

Pinkel said the first priority for the offense is eliminating penalties, “so you’re not stopping yourself.”

Beyond that, he said the simplest fix would be to do a better job of playing catch in the passing game by eliminating drops and throwing more catchable balls.

“At times, we’re doing things really well, so we’re leaning more on the point of becoming more consistent as a football team, playing more consistent as a group and not doing things to beat ourselves,” Pinkel said.

The run game also remains a concern, but the Tigers hope to have senior running back and captain Russell Hansbrough back for the SEC opener Sept. 26 at Kentucky.

Of course, a healthy Hansbrough isn’t a panacea.

“I still think we get Russell back in a week, but, even if we don’t, the bottom line is we’ve got to find a way to run the ball,” Pinkel said.

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter: @todpalmer.

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