Ex-Cowboys DT: The coach told me to stop, smoke the grass

As David Irving says, even Jason Garrett recommended this path.

Irving has spent four seasons as a Cowboys defensive lineman for a total of five seasons in the NFL. He has recorded seven sacks – 10 quarterback hits – in eight games in 2017.

He has also been suspended three times by the NFL for the last three reasons for violating League policies on drug and psychoactive substance abuse. Garrett is tired of Irving's marijuana use, Irving said.

"He told me that I just had to quit, smoke all the grass I wanted, the team did not need me," said Irving at USA TODAY Sports during a thorough phone interview Thursday. "I'm a distraction for the team.

"He sees marijuana as a drug, whereas I consider it a drug. This is not a good situation.

The Cowboys did not respond Friday to USA TODAY Sports's request for comment.

The Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, said Irving, took a different tone.

"Basically, Jerry, he supports me," said Irving, adding that Jones did not agree with all the league's rules on addiction. "He understands my situation and what I was facing. Our hands were pretty much tied. His hands were tied.

So Irving, a free agent with indefinite suspension, made a decision: he would leave the NFL to pursue cannabis-based wellness opportunities.

The announcement of this month was not spontaneous.

Irving has only played 10 of the Cowboys' 34 games in the past two seasons. The Cowboys have focused on their roster of 53 players until January, even though it 's never been prepared after October. Irving was rarely around the Cowboys' headquarters in 2018, battling problems such as injuries and a battle for custody. He repeatedly missed mandatory drug testing, which led to the indefinite suspension announced by the league on March 1st.

Garrett was asked about Irving during the NFL scouting campaign at the end of February.

"Obviously, he has faced different things over the past year and was not really part of our team this year," Garrett said. "He is a free agent as we know him and will address specific issues with specific guys as he goes along."

Irving said he has not spoken officially to Cowboys since December. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli called to register.

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Rather than giving up marijuana and following the league's policy, Irving joined an unusual set of free market contenders.

He officially accepted the terms of sale with Ghost Beverage this week, said marketing director Patrick Williams at USA TODAY Sports. Ghost Beverage plans to launch two products with Irving: cannabidiol pre-rolls (seals) and cannabidiol spray pens. The company, created in 2017, is already distributing an electrolyte-based beverage and two cannabidiol-based beverages in the Los Angeles area and in Chicago.

As executive producer of a new division called "Shut Up and Tackle", Irving will explore the CBD and what he considers to be a problematic aversion to marijuana by the NFL.

Irving says players should have the opportunity to pursue medical treatments with cannabis. He believes that the mental illnesses he has been diagnosed with in therapy – manic depression, borderline schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder and bipolar disorder, he said – result from professional concussions.

"You can check all my medical records. I have not been diagnosed with any of these things before the NFL, "said Irving. "What am I in, four and a half years now?

"It was scary to know that I was practicing a sport and that I had such concussions and I did not really know how long I would live. Loss of memory, pain, [and] I have these mood swings, bipolar disorder. If you ask me, everything is related to concussions. "

According to Irving, cannabis will help her to treat problems related to anxiety, depression, pain and sleep disorders.

The mission convinced Irving that 18 years of organized football are enough. He does not want to follow the conditions of the suspension league suspended for an indefinite period by giving up marijuana and returning to rehab from his 7-year-old daughter, Zoe. Irving is a single father and has complete custody, he said.

Instead, he hopes to find a different path to productivity and well-being.

"I'm a little excited about all this," said Irving. "I have so many things I could say and so many directions in which I can go."

Where does he plan to start?

"People have to understand that I do not do it, I have not left football to smoke grass," Irving said. "That would be silly. I understand that.

"It's a question of well-being, of rights. People have to understand that.

Follow Jori Epstein on Twitter @JoriEpstein.

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