Sunday, August 31, 2014

First Openly Gay NFL Player Michael Sam Cut by Rams, But His Story's Not Over


Michael Sam became the first openly gay player picked in the National Football League Draft this May. In August, he became the first openly gay player to play in a pre-season game, performing well.

But the St. Louis Rams cut Sam on Saturday just before the start of the NFL regular season, so making more history will have to wait.

The Rams announced the move on Saturday afternoon, the deadline for teams to finalize their 53-man rosters before the 2014 NFL season kicks off on Sept. 4.

Sam was the mighty Southeastern Conference's defensive player of the year last season at Missouri, but doubts about what position his speed and size would let him play in the NFL clouded his pro future, possible questions surrounding his sexual orientation aside.

In four pre-season games, Sam registered three sacks and 11 tackles. But working against him were the Rams' surplus of quality players on the defensive line, as well as an impressive showing by Ethan Westbrooks, an undrafted rookie from tiny West Texas A&M who made the Rams' final roster.

Westbrooks essentially made the cut over Sam.

So what comes next for Sam? Time will tell, but there are a few scenarios. Any NFL team is free to sign Sam now, after he was cut by the Rams. They could put him on their 53-man roster or 10-man practice squad of players who practice with the team, but don't play in games, and have an inside track on eventually getting a call-up. The Rams could also sign Sam to their practice squad. Given his solid pre-season performance, it's likely he ends up somewhere.

Saturday's cut is a bump in the road for Sam, to be certain — but it doesn't mean we won't see him or another openly gay player appear in a regular-season NFL game soon. And those Michael Sam jerseys everyone was buying back in May? They're still collectors' items.

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