Posted: 4:54 pm Monday, September 1st, 2014

Michael Sam not being viewed as just player 

By Jeff Schultz

Michael Sam had three sacks in preseason but no team has signed him to its practice squad. (AP photo)

Michael Sam had three sacks in preseason but no team has signed him yet. (AP)

The NFL, like any sports league, would like you to believe it’s not exclusionary. The problem with that expectation is a league can’t speak or act for individual team builders. That’s why Michael Sam is out of a job today — and for anybody who believes Sam’s sexuality has nothing to do with him being out of work today, keep reading.

The St. Louis Rams released the former Missouri defensive lineman, who became the first athlete in history to disclose publicly before the start of his career that he was homosexual. The Rams don’t deserve criticism for cutting Sam because they also drafted him. They’re ahead of the other 31 teams, even if it took until the seventh round and 249th overall selection before the SEC’s 2013 Defensive Player of the Year came off the board.

To this point, no team, including the pass-rush-starved Falcons, has signed Sam to its practice squad. If it stays that way and Sam has to go to Canada or some place to find a job, the NFL should be embarrassed.

Teams can sign 10 players to the practice squad, accounting for 320 jobs. In other words, in a league where pressuring the quarterback is one of the primary objectives, there is no room to this point for a player who won All-American honors at Missouri and accumulated 21 career sacks, including 11½ sacks and 19 tackles for loss as a senior.

When asked if the Falcons considered bringing in Sam, coach Mike Smith said Monday, “We put our practice squad together based on our needs. We felt like that we filled them with the 10 guys that we got. We have a familiarity with the majority of them. They’ve been in our camp and they understand what we are trying to do. They have a very good understanding of our scheme.”

I understand that the Falcons, who will be mostly a 3-4 defense, viewed Sam only as a guy who could play in a 4-3 base with his hand down. But Smith lost me with the first sentence, “We put our practice squad together based on our needs.”

Still don’t believe Sam’s sexuality is a factor? Keep reading.

Statistics in the NFL’s preseason can be misleading. But Sam had three sacks for the Rams. According to NFL.com, only 12 players had at least 2½ sacks. Ten of the 12 are on active rosters and one (San Diego’s Cordarro Law) was signed to the Chargers’ practice squad.

The other is Sam.

I’ll keep going.

There were 49 players in the preseason who recorded at least two sacks: 38 are on active rosters. Five have been signed to practice squads. That leaves six without jobs today. One is Sam. Here are the other five:

• Kaelin Burnett, who was undrafted in 2012, signed and spent two years with the Oakland Raiders and suffered a knee injury in this training camp.

• Marcus Dixon, who has spent time with four teams since 2008, including two years with Dallas.

• Larry English, a former first-round pick who played for San Diego for five years and failed to win a job in camp with Tampa Bay.

• Israel Idonije, who has been in the NFL since 2003 but failed to make the New York Giants’ roster.

•  Martez Wilson, who played three years in the league with New Orleans, Oakland and Dallas.

All five have spent time in the league, some for a significant number of seasons. Sam is the only young player, just out of college, coming off a great collegiate career, who logically has a potentially upside. That’s what the league is about, and that’s certainly what the practice squad is about.

The above suggests that, to this point, NFL teams are letting their decision-making be affected by something other than Sam’s playing abilities. The obvious conclusion: There’s concern signing Sam to the practice squad could be too great of a distraction to their team.

It would be nice if this was just about football, like the NFL wants you to believe. But it’s clearly not.

 Some recent ramblings (free links)
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425 comments
Chasethebase9
Chasethebase9

People that say Michael Sam was cut because he is gay don’t understand the complexity of making an NFL team. They are quick to point out that Michael Sam was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year. Bigger stars of college football and winners of bigger awards have failed to make NFL teams before. Jason White, of Oklahoma University, who won a Heisman trophy in 2003 and led his team to two National Championship games went undrafted and was quickly cut from the Tennessee Titans Practice Squad. While Michael Sam did perform well with his 3 sacks in the preseason, the Rams defensive line is stacked with players who have more talent and performed better in the preseason. Michael Sam is also what the NFL calls a tweaner. He is too small to play defensive line, and not quick enough to play linebacker. And, to the people who say Michael Sam got drafted so late in the draft because he is gay don’t realize he had such a poor combine score. While practice squad players help the team get better and hope to make the NFL roster someday, they are not mean to be a bigger headline than the actual team. NFL Owners and coaches don’t want that kind of attention drawn on a practice squad player and not on the their performance on the field. Michael Sam as also shown he very much likes the attention with his willingness to do a reality show and the scene he pulled on draft night. While Michael Sam was a great college player, college success doesn’t always translate to the pros.

all_i_am_saying_is
all_i_am_saying_is

The obvious conclusion: There’s concern signing Sam to the practice squad could be too great of a distraction to their team."


As was typed, Dallas Cowboys (still in the NFL last time I checked) signed Sam to their practice roster.


Schultz:  Man up and admit when you are wrong.

zuzu331
zuzu331

Dallas signed him,so Big Deal over nothing. Media making a story out of thin air,which is what theyre good at. When are we gonna have a slow 5'10 235 pound lesbian try to make an NFL roster? Im sure there are a couple who could get sacks against the level of competition Sam faced. Will the teams be anti lesbian,anti progressive and have the audacity to then cut this brave lil scamp? Will Schultz and his little Schultzleberries on here make so much noise trying to shout down dissent on that too? You might could get a book deal outta that!!

Tacoma98
Tacoma98

Sam shows potential as a DL, but he's not good enough to consume a roster spot.  He'd have to be able to contribute on Special Teams in order to justify keeping him on the 53 man roster.  He has no Special Teams ability whatsoever.  That's what I think this is about.  Not his sexual preference, his race or anything else.  So Dallas is going to keep him and see if they can develop him into a roster worthy player.  Okay.  For now, it's low risk, low reward.  I mean, I'm sure Mr. Jones isn't interested in any type of media coverage of his team.....................

Dynasty
Dynasty

This reminds me of that time Schultz wrote a column bringing up Rush Limbaugh and citing "Media Matters" as some neutral news source that he had just found and then acting like he didn't know Media matters was a kook far left website. Leave the left wing propagandizing to Jay Bookman and others. Sam got 3 sacks against backup scrubs. He just plain wasn't good enough. He wasn't the first high profile bust and won't be the last. And the man wasn't any more "discriminated against" than Tim Tebow was for his outspoken Christian views. Like Tebow he's just not a fit for the NFL. 

dawgfacedboy
dawgfacedboy

Asking 52 other players to be comfortable with something and call them a "homophobe" just because they don't want to shower with a  gay person is ridiculous. How many heterosexual men would feel comfortable with an unattractive woman watching them shower???

How many women would feel comfortable having an unattractive man watching them shower???  It creates an uncomfortable environment for people. Why is that so hard to understand? You can't ask them to feel differently anymore than you can ask Sam to not be gay.


Being tolerant of those who are different is very different than asking someone to interact and spend time with those who are different.


What is society's expectation? You can ask people to be civil, you can't ask them to feel comfortable intermingling/interacting with people they don't agree with.

quanxavier
quanxavier

I was actually at the Dolphins/Rams game. This dude can play. I agree with some of the other posters that it really wasn't anybody else's business whom he sleeps with. He took a stand. The consequences are unfair right now however as I told someone else another team with the need will acquire him.  

JaySly
JaySly

michael and his legal people may sue the nfl for discrimination if he doesn't make a team and get some nice money!

Gopher86
Gopher86

Did the whole Jamaal Anderson(the DE) mess up the falcons thinking on pass rushers? They've been terrible at getting once since him. Seven years and counting....

Srialien
Srialien

What's up with the pickum site. No updates. No winners. No stats. No response from Jeff. 

BCW1
BCW1

Dont you find it odd that the CO-DPOTY in the SEC was chosen in the seventh round? The other guy was the top pick!!! These teams do not want the baggage.

rightwingextreme
rightwingextreme

Oh cry me a river he didn't get signed. He brought all the attention to himself.  How many players in any sport announce what they do in their private life?   Does someone stand up and say, "hey, I'm sleeping with three different women?"    etc, etc.

If you're a coach do you want this kind of distraction on the team?  In the locker room?   Now, with our PC society and the nfl turning into the politically correct institution in the country would an team owner really want to have to worry about the slightest thing said that might "offend" Sam? 

good grief.

JSSN
JSSN

I'm always amazed at the total lack of understanding of the football calendar on these blogs. "Go to Canada" is always the cry around here. The CFL has gone through its whole training camp and 9 games of its season (2 teams have played 10). Canada is not an option until next February at the earliest for any US player who has never played there before! Moreover, the CFL has a foreign player quota (20 on a 46 man roster)! There are only 8 teams, you do the math!

Columbus68
Columbus68

Lets see the Rams know better than anyone he doesnt have it. Secondly he cant play ina 3-4 which eliminates HALF the teams in the league, secondly he isnt good enough to play on special teams, which leaves about 30 roster spots not 53 and LASTLY the consensus is he definitely got OUTPLAYED ON HIS OWN TEAM DURING CAMP AND PRESEASON BY AN UNDRAFTED FREE AGENT.....!  Sure he got some sacks in preseason against the 2ND teamers BUT when playing against the FIRST team he doesnt have a chance. St louis KNOWS IT BETTER THAN ANYONE....EXCEPT SCHULTZ!

Remarkable3
Remarkable3

@ Shultz Fix the Sack Schultz site.  It is not updating.  Why?


Mr_Ected
Mr_Ected

If he's good enough, he'll play in the NFL.  If he's not, he won't.  It's as simple as that, no matter how much writers get paid to turn it into a sociological discussion.

Quandry
Quandry

@KeithBanks

“As a Christian, I am totally against homosexuality.”

Why do people use religion as justification to discriminate or judge another person?

Keith have you ever:

1.Told a lie?

2.Lusted after a woman (that was not your wife)?

3.Fooled around?

4.Mistreated someone?

5.Simply had a bad thought?

Dude we are all humans – none of us are perfect.What would you do if your son told you he was gay?

STOP USING THE BIBLE TO JUDGE OTHER FOLKS…..YOU’RE NOT ABOVE SIN………….ARE YOU?

Quandry
Quandry

@loran-whatayagot

You nailed it.

Tony Dungy stated that was the reason he would not have signed Sam.

It would have been too much of a distraction.

The truth is the Rams did not think (in the beginning) how this situation would affect the TEAM.

When you’re building a TEAM everyone needs to feel like they belong.  How can you build a TEAM when one of your team mates has to shower alone or can’t room with another team member during road games?

There are gays in the NFL right now – make no mistake about it – but they choose to lay low – it’s no body’s business – that is what Sam should have done.

As far as the story goes about him coming out because a newspaper was going to out him anyway – I say so what.

Let people talk – when asked about his sexual orientation he should have kindly passed – tell them it’s nobody’s business and all he wants to talk about is football period.

GTBee
GTBee

Well-written article Jeff and 100% correct. Would you expect your southern readers to agree though? How teansparent they are. THWG and Clemson too!

loran-whatayagot
loran-whatayagot

Really, why should a team take on a whole truckload of baggage? The scrutiny a team would be under would be very counterproductive. Michael Sam is not good enough to overcome all that. Sorry, Michael. Use your free college degree to earn a normal living like the rest of us. It's not a bad life.

skeeterN
skeeterN

ESPN is reporting that Sam has been invited to Dallas tomorrow for a physical.

skeeterN
skeeterN

and why did Warren Moon have to go to Canada......not tall enough, arm not strong enough, only played games on the west coast...........come on people, discrimination is discrimination, regardless whether it race, religion, gender or sexual orientation.

KeithBanks
KeithBanks

Jeff, You are half right about Michael Sam being out of work in the NFL. Sam was an undersized defensive end who doesn't have the skill sets to play on special teams. If he never mentions his sexuality, he would have drafted in the fifth round. That doesn't make he a lock to be on a football team though.


If I was Sam, I would go play football in Canada (the Montreal team still have his rights there) and come back like Cameron Wake of the Miami Dolphins. There in Canada he can either gain more weight and strength in being a defensive lineman or gain more coverage skills in being a linebacker.


As a Christian, I am totally against homosexuality. But I do believe in a person right to earn a decent living. If I was Sam's agent, I would try to steer him into the Canada football league where he can improve his game and then have team fight over him to add to their rosters. I just hope M. Sam is getting some sound advice from people who really have his back, not from people who are really looking out for their own interest instead......  

ElemennoP
ElemennoP

Jeff, your hissy fit article has had legs for about 36 hours.  Any other inflammatory political pieces coming down the pike?

monty1
monty1

Taj Boyt was cut, Aaron Murray barely survived, these were all time great SEC and ACC players. NFL game is just different. There are a limited amount of openings and a lot of folks vying to get them.  Tim Tebow maybe the greatest college player ever. HE can't play in the NFL. Hershell Walker wasn't all that as a pro player in the NFL. IT happens.

syrupmaker
syrupmaker

Michael Sam is a better pass rusher right now than Kroy Biermann.  But I forget, Kroy is Nolan's wildcard that can play all 11 defensive positions.  This franchise is a joke.  With this conservative approach to player acquisition and evaluation, they will never win a super bowl.

monty1
monty1

The moment Sams went public, he made a decision that perhaps put his career in jeopardy. That's how it is spun anyway. He had 3 sacks , "Oh it was because he was gay". That's a spin a sports columnist puts on it. Let's be real about this. There are plenty other gay football players who choose to remain in anonymity. Do you really fault these guys for doing so? Michael Sams is made into a hero by SI. It's all they talk about at times. How could he be outed if everyone on the Missouri team knew he was gay?  He chose to be in the limelight. I'm not judging him. HIs private life is his business. But when you go public by choice what can you say? The system didn't give him a fair shake? You telling me the Rams wasted a 7th round choice knowing they would eventually cut him anyway?  Come on people. For what purpose? Political correctness?  He could have really helped our team but he was a distraction? Sometimes murder investigations aren't even a big  enough distraction if the player is good enough .Remember Ray.

Waredawg
Waredawg

@dawgfacedboy 

You are the first to raise a point that I wish Jeff Schultz had addressed - MS may be the first openly gay

NFLer, but certainly isn't the first or ONLY gay pro player. Even if the % of gays in the male population is only 3.5% (and many studies suggest it's substantially higher) and even if the nature of pro sports would discourage or even discriminate against gays, you'd have assume that 1-2% (conservatively) of pro players are gay, that's 35-70 based on current roster/practice size or 1-2 per team, and possibly much higher. So the question should be why is MS the first or why haven't dozens come out? 

Could it be because most people regard someone's sexuality as nobody's business but their own. Even those opposed to gay marriage would generally believe "that's it's a personal issue" and even many religious folks (myself included) think it's between them and their God (who am I to judge?). As with all fairly large groups, I'm sure there are some very anti-gay players, but amazingly no one outs anybody.

You could argue that it's remarkable that everyone respects everyone else's right to privacy and that the

only thing that matters is the players ability on the field and "lack of distraction" in the locker room.


I don't think any rational person believes that all the gay players in the NFL have successfully "hidden"

their sexual orientation. And if I'm wrong, and Sams was one of the very few gay players, then coming out pre-draft was even less well thought out than many are now suggesting. Michael Sams knew or should have known that he was "creating a three ring circus". If he truly was a borderline NFL player ( and all the scouting/combine reports suggest so), he had to know that being a distraction (the comparisons to Tebeau are well made) might hurt his chances. And I take particular offense at JS singling out the Falcons for failing to sign him as practice squad player. He didn't fit our defense and AB seems to dislike distractions ( see Michael Vick or the failure to even sniff around Incognito with all our O-line woes).


If the guy could play a lick, I'm shocked Snyder didn't grab him, it would gain him  some points with the PC crowd and lord knows the Washington team (I'm being PC) could use it. If MS can play, he'll get his chance and he's truly a one dimensional tweener, he'll be a sports trivia footnote. Probably parlay the self induced attention into a nice sports commentating gig (see Tebeau). 



To those criticizing JS, sports and life often intersect, and occasioning touching on these issues may serve a valid purpose. However, in this case, the column seems to gone "off the rails". I doubt there was some grand conspiracy to shaft MS due to his sexual orientation. The NFL seems to welcome any "old felon or thug" that can help a team win, and probably has (without fanfare) made room for numerous gays long before Michael Sams.

Tyreke
Tyreke

Can we please just stop with this SEC DPOY thing as well again most of your sacks came against Murray St. plus seeing as both Georgia and South Carolina along with Florida weren't even close to themselves last season should be enough to let you know it's a farce that they keep using the CO-SEC DPOY argument he just flat out sucks. 


Rams drafted him cause they had 4 picks to use so they were probably like why not. Again being outplayed by a guy at West TEXAS AM not TAMU not TT, not TEXAS not BAYLOR heck not even Stephen F. Austin or UTSA, but WEST TEXAS AM in D2 Football. 


No disrespect to West Texas AM or D2 football, but to keep putting this guy on an imaginary pedestal is just insane and disrespectful to other players who were downright better than him for miles. 


Again you win SEC DPOY with the #1 Draft Pick who is Jadaeveon Clowney basically not playing to save himself GTFO!  

Gordon82
Gordon82

What utter nonsense.

If Jeff and others on the left didn't make such a big deal about Sam's sexuality, he wouldn't be a distraction. Why would a team want a distraction like that?  It's too bad we can't go back in time and see if Sam would have made the team or practice squad if there wasn't such a distraction surrounding him.  But since we can't, lets just assume that since a 7th rounder got cut and we're all homophobes.

SaintsREAM
SaintsREAM

Some of the comments on here are archaic.  For example:


"Again, some people think the other 96.5% of the people in this country should just deal with it and accept it as normal.

Funny how the feelings of a minute group of people are fought for but when the feelings of the many are looked out for they are publicly criticized for it."

Oh I'm sure many said the same sort of things about Jackie Robinson too.

However, the comparisons will stop there.  Jackie Robinson was an extremely good baseball player....a Superstar.  Michael Sam ...not quite.  While Schultz may have a point that Michael Sam should be on a team you can't blame teams for not taking him.  Jackie Robinson was every bit of a media circus/distraction but his ability to play allowed his race to take a back seat and prove that he clearly belonged.  Michael Sam played well but not well enough to remove any doubt that he should be in the league.  Schultz's article stirs this pot without Sam being a dominant player.  As much as i hate to say it, it is understandable that a team might pass on him.

ElemennoP
ElemennoP

Jeff, how many other 7th rounders who were cut have been picked up on a development squad?

Bronte
Bronte

michael is a hero at the u of missouri for coming out---will they build a statue outside the stadium?

dawgfacedboy
dawgfacedboy

I would bet that there haven't been that many gay players. I mean, if 3.5% of this country is gay/lesbian (as of 2013) what percentage of that group plays football at the professional level?

dawgfacedboy
dawgfacedboy

He was openly gay to his college teammates. How was this a secret to begin with? If he was going to be publicly ousted then the response is "I was openly gay with my MIzz teammates, I've never hid behind this. My sexuality didn't matter then and I don't know why it should matter now. I didn't 'come out' because I didn't feel as though it was a story."


You brush it off. You don't do countless interviews discussing it. Frankly I'd say he was lucky to be drafted at all.


Again, some people think the other 96.5% of the people in this country should just deal with it and accept it as normal.


Funny how the feelings of a minute group of people are fought for but when the feelings of the many are looked out for they are publicly criticized for it.

dawgfacedboy
dawgfacedboy

What's TEbow's record as a starter? Didn't he win a playoff game? WHere is he now?


DId Sam play with the 1st string or were his stats against the other would be players to get cut?


Where was he projected before he came out? a 7th round player getting cut is hardly a story.

chicagosince80
chicagosince80

"Michael Sam not being viewed as just a player"


So what!!! It's HIS FREAKIN FAULT!!!!!

Why in the hell would you come out and draw that much attention on yourself and you don't even know how to play the NFL game yet!? He hadn't even made the freakin team and he KNEW that becoming the first POTENTIAL NFL player to announce his sexuality would draw enormous media attention before he did it. 

You know the difference between Terrell Owens/Chad Ochocinco and Michael Sam?

They waited until they became ALLSTARS before they started all of their antics that had NOTHING to do with the game of football - just like being gay has NOTHING to do with football. IT'S...HIS...DAMN...FAULT.

quanxavier
quanxavier

As a follow-up, the Rams are crazy because this guy is a 7th round pick. How big of a contract was he gonna get anyway? 

JSSN
JSSN

@Gopher86

They were bad before him! Patrick Kearney was their last pick that was gang busters. They messed around playing Babineaux out of position for his entire career. So you don't really know what type of DE he would have really been. Now they are hoping he's not too long in the tooth!

JSSN
JSSN

@Columbus68

That "undrafted free agent" "outplayed" an entire league of DEs this past preseason (including Chris Long). Go and look at Pro Football Focus matrices, better yet, go and watch game rewinds! Westbrooks sacks came against "2nd and 3rd teamers" too! Amazing, against first teamers he had 5 pressures and 3 plays in the oppositions backfield! Go watch the Green Bay/Cleveland 2nd quarters!

HotDawg
HotDawg

Funny, I was wondering if anybody else had a problem with Sack Schultz site.

BobRies
BobRies

Well thought out. A black football player who happens to be gay loses his most likely One chance of furthering his NFL football career, and you lump all southerners together with your Teflon bowels.

Jeff most likely has a treat for you.

Gopher86
Gopher86

I agree until you got to Herschel. His NFL stats alone put him top five in combined total yardage. Now throw in his USFL STATS and Herschel's head and shoulders the best all time.

JSSN
JSSN

@Waredawg

You forgot the NFL welcomes any "fraudulent prescription pill transporter" and "sexual harasser" as well, Sam was the lesser of their problems or "circus distraction!"

JSSN
JSSN

@dawgfacedboy

It is not the point whether there are "many gay players!" It was the point that he openly choose to live life in an authentic manner!

If Vince Lombardi can accept a homosexual (actually two), and he made sure everyone from the owner to trainers knew that Ray McDonald and Jerry Kopay were treated like men at Redskin Park! I don't like pulling the machismo card. But all of you big bad men think you'd been able to pull your homophobe act with Lombardi in a meeting room, you'd be eating floor! His younger brother was gay by the way! Oh, and McDonald and Kopay weren't "all-stars!"

zuzu331
zuzu331

@dawgfacedboy Dont throw logic and common sense into it when knee jerk Liberals with worldviews about as big as a teacup are making their little halfbaked points. It confuses them.

JSSN
JSSN

@chicagosince80

You didn't watch Terrell much in San Francisco did you? That show was on from the minute he left UTC! Johnson and Steve Smith were legendary for their antics in JC! It was their red flags coming into the draft!

PaulinNH
PaulinNH

@JSSN 

How many weeks has Goodell been waiting to rule on Irsay?

JSSN
JSSN

@PaulinNH 

And then his highness blows that one too! Only six games, is he serious?