How Did Jets Draft Self-Admitted Drug Addict Erik Ainge?

There’s an extremely interesting piece on ESPN New York written in the first person by Erik Ainge, the former Tennessee Vols quarterback. Ainge played four years at Tennessee and was drafted in 2008 by the Jets. He was suspended four games for violating the league’s drug policy in 2008 and missed all of last season because he was in rehab.

Ainge opened up about his personal problems in the article and revealed he’s been using drugs consistently for most of his adult life. Here’s a sample of what he says about himself:

My addiction is with the hardest of hard drugs — heroin, cocaine and alcohol. During my days of using, I was a really bad drug addict. I would’ve made Charlie Sheen look like Miss Daisy.

By the time I was a senior in college, I was an addict. I played my whole senior season with a broken finger on my throwing hand. It was really badly broken. Just taking the snap, throwing the ball, handing it off, getting tackled — everything that goes along with playing quarterback — it was very painful.

You really should read the whole story because it’s gripping, but based on those two paragraphs you get the point. Ainge was heavily involved in drugs and I’m not here to rip on the kid. He’s having a tough enough time staying clean and I hope he’s able to keep doing so. But what I want to talk about the Jets and their decision to draft him.

Given all the precautions teams use and all the measures they take on prospects, how is it possible for the Jets to have drafted a player who’s a drug addict? I understand that teams give players chances regardless of their past if they’re talented enough, but for a guy who at best was going to be a second-stringer, why would you waste a pick on him? It really doesn’t make much sense and it only suggests that teams look the other way when it comes to players’ problems.

Lastly, reading a story like this doesn’t bode well for prospects who have been plagued by rumors of drug use. There is one prominent quarterback in this year’s draft who has been the subject of numerous rumors, and reading about Ainge’s story make it seem entirely plausible that a major college QB could be a drug user and still have success on the field. In other words, it makes me believe similar rumors can very well be true.

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