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Darren Waller Describes Challenges With Sobriety While Missing Games

After missing five weeks with a knee injury and a positive COVID-19 test, Raiders tight end Darren Waller made his return for his team’s dramatic overtime win over the Chargers in Week 18, which secured Las Vegas’s spot in the postseason. On Wednesday, Waller opened up about how his time off the field presented an added challenge in his battle to maintain his sobriety.

“Because of my disease of addiction, that can have me thinking all kinds of crazy things,” Waller said Wednesday, per ESPN’s Paul Gutierrez. “So, I’ve got to make sure that I’m talking about those things when I have all that idle time. I’ve got my therapist. Stay going to (A.A.) meetings. Stayed in the playbook. Working on music. Just staying solid, keeping my head out of that idle time and just into things that I enjoy. And stay into the game of football as much as I can.”

Waller battled substance abuse issues earlier in his career, which included a season-long suspension in 2017 when he was with the Ravens. He is the team’s candidate this year for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award for his work with helping young people overcome and avoid addiction to drugs and alcohol and support youth and their families during their recovery and treatment journey.

Waller described facing added difficulty while away from the team due to the idle time he had on his hands, which he said led to negative and potentially destructive thoughts.

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“It’s tough, honestly, because I’m a human being at the end of the day and I’m still trying to shed my old thinking patterns,” he said. “So, when I’m not out there [playing], I can think these thoughts of, ‘The team is balling without me being in there. Am I useless?’ These irrational thoughts...

“So it’s just staying locked in. I have to do that because my mind can take me to those places. And I don’t want to be there anymore.”

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