NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Former NFL running back Ricky Williams believes cannabis can help players deal with the weekly pounding they receive.

Speaking on a “How Cannabis Will Save the NFL” panel with former players at the 2016 SoCal Medical Cannabis Cup, the former Heisman winner touted how smoking marijuana helped him deal with the week-to-week grind in the league.

“I played a position where I got beat up a lot. In a couple of years, I led the NFL in carries. And somehow I was able to recover through the week and come back out there and take another pounding,” Williams said.

Williams famously walked away from the game in 2004 when he was only 27, citing smoking marijuana as one of the reasons. He explained to the audience that he was putting his body through too much stress.

“And then finally, one day, I realized, I can’t do this anymore. So I retired from football and went to go find myself. And then I got sued for a lot of money and then I had to come back,” Williams said. “It didn’t make sense to me because I was putting my body under so much stress. And for me, I got to a point in my career where I realized, I’m not going to be able to do this much longer. And at the same time, the teams don’t care, they weren’t trying to take care of me.”

He continued, “So I had to take care of myself. One of the ways I took care of myself was using cannabis. I’d go see the doctor, he’d wiggle my knee around and say here and give me some anti-inflammatories, some pain pills, and say, ‘Just try to rest.’ That’s it. I think there’s a better way.”

Despite testing positive for marijuana throughout his career, Williams came back to the NFL in 2005, but was suspended for the entire 2006 season.

He retired following the 2011 season.

The former first-round pick played for the New Orleans Saints, Miami Dolphins and the Baltimore Ravens throughout his 11-year career. He amassed 10,009 rushing yards and 74 touchdowns total.

Marijuana is a banned substance in the NFL.

More From CBS New York

Bracket Challenge
Download Weather App

Watch & Listen LIVE