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Monday, August 2
Updated: August 4, 5:22 AM ET
Salaam battled drug problem

Associated Press

NAPA, Calif. -- Running back Rashaan Salaam, attempting a comeback with the Oakland Raiders, says an addiction to marijuana made him withdrawn, caused him to fumble and nearly ended his career.

"I wasn't the kind of person I was (before)," he told ESPN. "I wasn't outgoing like I was. I was just to myself. All I wanted to do was go home and do what I wanted to do. I wasn't a social person. I was just an outcast."

 Rashaan Salaam
Rashaan Salaam rushed for 1,074 yards and 10 touchdowns as a rookie, although he gained only 3.6 yards per carry.

Salaam, who refused to speak with reporters after the Monday's two practices, was the focus of attention after his comments.

Salaam, who won the Heisman Trophy at Colorado in 1994, was plagued by fumbles with the Chicago Bears, losing 14 in 31 games. He thinks the fumbles most likely were related to marijuana.

"It probably had me out there lackadaisical instead of being out there 100 percent," he told the cable network in an interview first broadcast Sunday.

"Everybody thinks getting high is cool, you can let it go when you want to let it go," he added. "But it's just as potent as alcohol. It's just as potent as cocaine."

Salaam broke his leg in the third game of the 1997 season, a game in which he committed two costly fumbles. He said the injury increased his addiction.

"When I got hurt, I knew it was a problem because it pretty much consumed all my time," he said. "I wasn't going to practice or anything like that so I pretty much spent my time sitting around getting high, and that's when I knew I had to let it go."

Salaam told ESPN that he informed the Bears of his problem in early 1998 and entered a rehabilitation program. The Bears later cut the former first-round draft choice. He was out of football last season.

"It was hard," he said. "It was embarrassing. My pride was shot. It was just a nightmare to be 23 years old and out of football. I couldn't believe what was going on."

The Raiders signed Salaam as a free agent.

"We think the upside is tremendous," coach Jon Gruden said. "He was a first-round draft choice an 1,100-yard back his rookie year, so we think there is a real upside there if he can regain the rhythm he had coming out of Colorado. I like him as a person and he has something to prove and is extremely hungry."

Raiders senior assistant Bruce Allen added, "Before he signed here, he was very forthright in everything."

"I know a lot about Rashaan Salaam. We studied him carefully," Gruden said. "We support Rashaan Salaam 100 percent. He's never tested positive in this league."

Salaam said the experience of being released changed him.

"I don't never want to go back to how I was in Chicago," he said. "I don't want to never be without a team. I don't want to never go through that again. Just thinking about that keeps me away from it."

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