It's not just baseball; NFL has a smokeless tobacco habit, too

ByJeremy Fowler Via <a Href="" Title="espn" Class="espn_sc_byline">espn </a>
August 20, 2015, 1:14 PM

&#151; -- So San Francisco Giants ace Madison Bumgarner has dipped since the fifth grade? The NFL has its tobacco stories, too.

One quarterback in an NFL training camp is so self-conscious about his dipping, knowing his mother wouldn't approve, that he places a gold grill over his lower teeth to hide the nasty brown habit.

While Major League Baseball has spent years trying to curb chewing tobacco use in its game, the habit has permeated locker rooms for decades in the NFL, which does little to address the topic despite smokeless tobacco's links to oral cancer and nicotine addiction.

Anywhere from 75 to 80 percent of the players in the Browns' locker room chew tobacco or used to do so, former Cleveland punter Spencer Lanning, now with the Denver Broncos, estimates. Two Steelers players say usage in their locker room falls between 65 and 75 percent.

"Some started in college, others didn't do it until they got to the pro level, but it's widespread," Lanning said. "I've never been on a team that didn't have at least half or 75 percent that did it."

Those percentages double the range gleaned in a 2014 Boston Globe report citing 21 of 58 Red Sox players at spring training (36.2 percent) admitting to dipping.

After two decades coaching in college and the NFL, Steelers quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner has struggled to kick the habit. He hasn't suffered any health issues yet but knows he could.

"I've rode that roller coaster before, and I'm probably not very nice to be around when I [try to quit]," Fichtner said. "It's not anything I'm proud of. ... It's a habit. I'm going to get up, I'm going to take a shower, go to a meeting, first thing you do [is throw in a dip]."

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