Report: Rams avoided Hard Knocks in 2014 by drafting Michael Sam

AP

It’s long been believed that the Rams used a late-round draft pick two years ago on defensive end Michael Sam at the behest of the league office. Long-time NFL reporter Howard Balzer, who has focused his attention in recent years on the Rams, reports that the arrangement had a quid pro quo.

Balzer cites multiple unnamed sources in support of the notion that, in exchange for the Rams drafting Sam, the league office agreed not to compel the Rams to serve as the focus of the Hard Knocks series in 2014.

Per Balzer, the league viewed the Rams as the ideal landing spot for Sam, the first openly-gay NFL player, because of the team’s proximity (at the time) to the University of Missouri, where Sam played college football.

Sam, who was added to a depth chart that included a glut of pass rushers, was cut by the Rams before the start of the 2014 regular season. He thereafter spent time on the Cowboys’ practice squad before being released and otherwise ignored by all NFL teams.

Balzer also speculates that the league office possibly twisted arms elsewhere to ensure that defensive end Ethan Westbrooks would not be drafted by other teams over the final seven picks in the 2014 draft so that the Rams could sign him as an undrafted free agent. Westbrooks made the 53-man roster that year. Westbrooks received a $20,000 signing bonus and $30,000 in guaranteed salary for the first year of his contract.

Balzer’s report invites also speculation as to whether the decision to assign the Rams the Hard Knocks series in 2016 was part of the deal struck to secure approval for the team’s move to Los Angeles. Ditto for the decision to send the Rams all the way to China for a regular-season game in 2018.

And ditto for pretty much any decision that ever gets made as to the Hard Knocks series or anything else that a team agrees to do when the team possibly would otherwise prefer not to do it. Balzer’s report confirms that, when it comes to situations like this, there’s always more than meets the eye — and there’s always a chance that the end result was the product of a wink-nod bargain.

106 responses to “Report: Rams avoided Hard Knocks in 2014 by drafting Michael Sam

  1. I’ve never seen Hard Knocks (not a slave to cable) and could care less if I ever do, but isn’t possibly collusion?

  2. “I’m eagerly awaiting Rams and league denials. Just like league denied efforts to sabotage STL stadium financing vote”

    -Balzer tweeted this shortly after his “report”. Just in case anyone was wondering about his professionalism or objectivity.

  3. Well duh! Many people at the time said that the Rams drafted Sam at the behest of the NFL. Basically to keep the firestorm surrounding Sam from exploding into an uncontrollable PC mob.

    The Rams drafting Sam made very little football sense. A team that went three deep on the D-line drafting an nonathletic tweener. Now we know why this happened.

    Where are all the PC people at now?

  4. “The Rams drafting Sam made very little football sense. A team that went three deep on the D-line drafting an nonathletic tweener. Now we know why this happened”

    That “nonathletic tweener” was defensive player of the year in the SEC. Sam’s career in the NFL obviously didn’t work out. But let’s not pretend there wasn’t some modicum of skill.

  5. Should have just done Hard Knocks. Michael Sam was just a publicity stunt. He’s proved that, and on top of that, he is a quitter. The media was more concerned on who he slept with, rather than realizing he sucked as a football player.

  6. What does being PC have to do with anything? The real story here is collusion, in this case the league telling teams not to draft someone so the Rams could get him as an undrafted free agent. I would think that player and his agent would ask the union to investigate this.

  7. Reverse discrimination anyone?
    I’m with theauger, I can’t wait to see the progressives do mental gymnastics on this. I’m all for equality but taking away rights or opportunities from one group to give it to another group isn’t equality.

  8. Can we ever get this non-player off this website? Notice, there’s never been a story about him leading a team in tackles, getting a first sack, or making/staying with a pro team in any country. Why? Because he is not good enough to play in the pros. The only reason this guy is even mentioned is because of his sexuality.maybe LGBT Talk would be a more appropriate location for reporting on him,
    If it wasn’t for the potential ramifications of draft-rigging and the league obviously trying to use this non-player as some type of marketing tool, or for political capital with our over-the-top liberal media and government, this would not be interesting. Maybe use that in the headline and forget that the reality TV star you named is only a secondary consideration.

  9. Is it legal to conspire NOT to hire someone? How much did that cost Westbrooks?

    Not only can we simpleton fans tell what a catch is, we can also tell wrong from right. Rigged from fair….. NFL, you better stop this crap if you want us to hang around and watch.

  10. The details of this story don’t really matter to me. The main take away is that the league can rig the draft, or anything else for that matter. Unacceptable.

  11. Always integrity of the NFL and Rodger. Samantha stunk, it was all an attention grab anyhow. Rams were stupid to agree to take that loser.

  12. Remember when they showed Sam at his draft day party? After he got picked, ESPN had a camera on him and his boyfriend when he licked that cake out of that guys mouth. I almost puked. That is what I remember most about Michael Sam.

  13. I don’t care if the Rams drafted Sam at the behest of the league or to get out of Hard Knox, but if the league twisted arms to get other teams NOT to take Westbrooks so that the Rams could get him as an UFA, that is despicable! That is worse than Spygate, Bountygate, Deflategate, and Tampergate combined, as it shows that the governing body of the league is in cahoots with a single organization to ensure they get a key individual that they want if they comply with league directives. That is a true fix, and is a terrible sign that the league is willing to fix their events to achieve specific goals… What’s next? Fixing games (which is already rumored anyway, especially after that Dez Bryant catch/no catch a year ago)? This is a bad precedent to set, if true, that the league is willing and complicit in “fixing” anything associated with it.

  14. And the league office is still screaming about “integrity”? What a bunch of garbage. I would really like to use much stronger language. So much for the player that may have been drafted instead of Sam.

    The PC driven agenda of forcing a substandard player onto a team didn’t work. Huh. Who would’ve thought?

  15. Here we go, turning football into politics. Leftwing agenda, really?

    How about the league wanted good PR for once on a player in a nation where the majority (right or wrong) supports LBGT community.

    Personally, I don’t care if a player is gay, straight or whatever. If he can play, and isn’t a distraction, he’s welcome to join the ball club.

  16. No problem with the first part of this, if it was a choice. “If you draft Sam, we won’t make you take Hard Knocks”. Would be better if the offer was available to all teams.

    Telling other teams they can’t draft a player (Westbrook) though, that is crossing a line.

    Not understanding how people now say they knew all along that the pick was rigged because the Rams were so deep in defensive linemen but if that were the case why does it make sense that the defensive lineman (Westbrook) was held for them and they signed him?

  17. Let me get this right. The NFL will deny Atlanta a chance at hosting a Superbowl because it might pass pro religious legislation but they are going to take a NFL game to China. Come on media tear them down. Here’s your chance. you know China one of the biggest human rights violators in the world, and I am sure discriminates against gays everyday, but maybe that speaks volumes about what is really important to the NFL. $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$

  18. The PC people are in the same place they were when Sam was drafted – as anyone with a brain knew at the time he was drafted only to avoid a PR firestorm.

  19. Any speculation in this report? Better question, is there any 2nd party verification for any of this or is it simply a product of one guy’s imagination?

    The one fact that no one can deny is that Michael Sam did not possess the talent to play at the NFL level, no matter how much the media wanted him to make a splash, no matter how many arms were allegedly twisted and no matter how many alleged back room deals were cut to insure he was at least drafted.

  20. If the NFL actually manipulated the draft then honestly Congress should come in and end their monopoly protection.

    This may have been a low round pick but if true it would open speculation as to what else they might manipulate.

  21. The NFL is a joke. A serious joke. Just becasue its popular doesn’t make it less of a joke. Jerry Jones’ Marketing company will make millions off of the Rams move to LA. Hence he pushed it forward tooth and nail. Jerry and Kraft are major stake holders in Draft Kings? The Raiders want to be in Vegas. Guys are dying to from CTE. Its a mess. So now the Rams drafted a gay player just so the NFL could save face and the embarrass the kid by cutting him and he is blackballed around the league? COO Kevin Demoff basically said they were throwing games in 2014 to concentrate on moving to LA? Its never ending…

  22. Hard knocks is going to be boooorringgg this year. The Rams don’t even have a stadium. It’s nothing but a drawing on blue prints. We gonna watch a show about building a stadium? Nah. I want football, and a Jeff Fisher coached team led by Case Keenum is hardly football.

  23. Puh-lease!!! No more mention of Michael Sam, Tim Tebow, or Johnny Busto Manziel — okay PFT???

    No one cares about any of them!

    As for Hard Knocks, no team should ever be forced to do that show. It does nothing but bring bad press to the teams who go on it.

  24. I would think the San Francisco 49ers would have been the perfect landing spot for him. Not only because of the location which is obvious, but the owner even put a rainbow on the team logo.

  25. This is just another reason I find myself caring less and less about the NFL.

    Every aspect of the game outside of the opening kickoff and final whistle is an attempt to drain our wallets of every penny while social engineering us into believing feel good lies.

    A story like this only proves the lack of integrity from the front office down to the equipment personnel.

  26. “He thereafter spent time on the Cowboys’ practice squad before being released and otherwise ignored by all NFL teams.”

    For crying out loud, quit making it seem like there was an underlying vendetta against Sam. HE. WASN’T. GOOD. ENOUGH.

  27. You’ve laughed when you make a joke that the NFL feels like the the scripted WWE when a ref blows a huge call that determines a game, but it’s getting a whole lot less funny when a slippery slope like the league rigging the draft starts to happen.

  28. Ah well, he made a nice chunk of change, primed for a tv movie or even box office level, probably become a motivational speaker or a coach at Mizzou. High five to the NFL for jump starting his life.

  29. joetoronto says:
    Mar 24, 2016 5:53 AM
    The leftwing agenda is ruining everything, even sports.

    —————

    Not everyone on the left agrees with that agenda.

  30. …But it was still a face mask on Mr. Rodgers to extended the Detroit game.

    Go play in China, Mexico, Germany. I don’t need to give you money.

  31. “You’ve laughed when you make a joke that the NFL feels like the the scripted WWE when a ref blows a huge call that determines a game, but it’s getting a whole lot less funny when a slippery slope like the league rigging the draft starts to happen.”

    You didn’t know that that the NFL actually does rig games? The refs work for them.

    It’s perfectly legal too.

  32. This story raises some major questions. The Hard Knocks team is announced well ahead of the draft. So in order for this to be true, not only would the league have had to set this arrangement months before the draft, but they also would have had to make sure none of the other 31 teams would draft him before the 7th round.

    Not saying any of them would have, but there would have had to have been contact between every other team in the league beforehand to make sure they didn’t.

    The idea that at least one person with every single franchise in the league knew about this at the time but it didn’t leak until now is very hard to believe.

  33. snowdood163 says:
    Mar 24, 2016 8:51 AM
    “He thereafter spent time on the Cowboys’ practice squad before being released and otherwise ignored by all NFL teams.”

    For crying out loud, quit making it seem like there was an underlying vendetta against Sam. HE. WASN’T. GOOD. ENOUGH.
    _________________________________

    Not sure where you read that there was a vendetta against him??? They actually told the Rams to draft him. if they had a vendetta they would have told teams not to draft him?

  34. Della Street says:
    Mar 24, 2016 8:48 AM
    NFL makes me sick. But I can’t quit it.

    Right here…. this is the quote that made the NFL smile this morning.

  35. Hard Knocks needs to go away. If people are going to condemn the Rams for doing what they had to do, they need to start with the NFL for driving this show down teams’ throats & not giving them a choice. It’s all about $$$ to the league, regardless of which team suffers because of it.

  36. I couldn’t care less about the private sexual orientation of a player, but I don’t like seeing teams, fans and processes being rogered by Goodell.

  37. Surprise, surprise.

    What anybody with any common sense had figured out already but was denied by the despicable PC masses (media) has been dragged into the light.

    Makes you wonder what else and who else the league cowtows to in the name of political correctness.

  38. Finally got the answer why a team even drafted Sam. All makes sense now. Balzar let this out because he is a St Louis Homer. I am sure Sam will sue now. It’s inevitable.

  39. oldguardof60s says:
    Mar 24, 2016 5:47 AM
    I’ve never seen Hard Knocks (not a slave to cable) and could care less if I ever do, but isn’t possibly collusion?

    ————————————————————–

    Yeah, if this pans out at all, this could mean big trouble for the league.

    That could invalidate the CBA in Article 69, Section 2. Now, while not drafting someone isn’t specifically mentioned in article 17 anti-collusion, I would say that any agreement not to draft would include an agreement to let the Rams negotiate with him alone, which would be prohibited.

    Either way, I think the NFLPA will be looking into this.

  40. ReligionIsForIdiots says:
    Mar 24, 2016 9:16 AM
    Rigging the draft, nice. Typical capitalism, typical republican garbage.
    __________________________________

    What does this have to do with Republicans or capitalism? What you said makes no sense whatsoever.

  41. Wow. The league office is so filthy. Is there nothing they are above doing?

    How can we trust anything that comes out of their mouths?

  42. Conspiracy theory…maybe the NFL made the Cleveland Browns draft these quarterback’s: Tim Couch, Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden, and Johnny Manziel because what team could be that stupid to miss on that many qb’s ?

  43. Goodell and the NFL would never do such a duplicitous thing. They are a bastion of truth and honesty and would never do something crazy like this. Not this regime

  44. Say what you will about Sam, but the SEC Defensive Player of the Year not making an NFL roster? ANY NFL roster?

  45. He was drafted exactly where he should have been. He was scouted as a mid/late round pick. There was potential of him not being drafted, but that was just a possibility.

    The people who attribute this to some ‘liberal agenda’ should: Take their tin foil hats of, Turn off rush limbaugh, Read a book.

  46. baddegg says:
    Mar 24, 2016 8:39 AM

    If the NFL actually manipulated the draft then honestly Congress should come in and end their monopoly protection.

    This may have been a low round pick but if true it would open speculation as to what else they might manipulate.
    ——————————————————-
    Like say, punishing teams for salary cap violations in a season without a salary cap? Making up double punishments when the league is embarrassed by video they had the audacity to claim they never saw? Being absolutely schooled by Tagliabue in the bounty scandal? Whacking one team for a violation while letting a repeat offended off for a mere $100,000? Oh, and framing the leagues best QB with false information planted to the media and then going on to simply make stuff up or lie about what was said in an appeal hearing to benefit their case? Just to top that off by making even more lies before a federal circuit court of appeals? Holy smokes people, what more proof do you need? These people are dishonest crooks and someone, somewhere needs to do a serious criminal investigation of the goings on at the league office and the corrupted ownership.

  47. Arlen Specter wanted a Senate hearing on NFL antitrust after an overblown Spygate mess. Now we have some seriously sketchy draft fantasy gambling overtones and talk of draft manipulation by the league itself. All the while we have billionaire owners holding cities and states hostage for taxpayer dollars to pay for stadiums that aren’t necessarily needed. Where the hell is the outrage and investigations??

  48. To those posting above making excuses for the NFL, and blaming gay rights activists for the NFL’s lies and dirty dealing — your defense of these clowns is pathetic.

  49. And soon you will see that Deflategate is just a PR stunt. The Pats will get their first pick back. This is the world we live in folks… Now start paying attention to fake news stories…

  50. ReligionIsForIdiots says:
    Mar 24, 2016 9:16 AM
    Rigging the draft, nice. Typical capitalism, typical republican garbage.
    __________________________________

    ^Adorable! However, rigging the draft would imply the concept of central planning, which is a tenant of Socialism and the Democratic model. Republicans advocate free markets and letting the market determine value.

    So, exactly the opposite of whatever you said. 😀

    P.S. You’re welcome for the free knowledge!

  51. imodan says:
    Mar 24, 2016 10:46 AM

    Holy smokes people, what more proof do you need? These people are dishonest crooks
    _________
    They (NFL management) are not (at least as illustrated in the examples you cite) crooks, they are incompetent. This inconsistent, bumbling mismanagement doesn’t serve to profit the owners or tem management individually, and in fact risks hurting them financially quite severely in the long run, especially if it results in well-meaning but probably not too well-considered pressure from the public to get the federal government involved. What a disaster that would be.

  52. Railroaded or not, unless he gets hurt this whole thing will have worked out for Westbrooks. By going undrafted he hits Free Agency a year earlier and will likely earn more money in his first four years than he would have on a late 7th-round contract.

  53. Looks like all but one poster on here assumes that the story is true. Not that I think the NFL wouldn’t do this, but it’s far from proven. Just an anonymous allegation. Florio, as a lawyer you should know better. And no, the report “confirms” nothing at all, since it is an unconfirmed report.

  54. mack2x says:
    Mar 24, 2016 11:46 AM
    Rigging the draft, nice. Typical capitalism, typical republican garbage.

    —– What a miserable existence some people lead.

    ________________________________________

    When you come down from whatever you’re on, try posting something which makes sense.

  55. ReligionIsForIdiots says:
    Mar 24, 2016 9:16 AM
    Rigging the draft, nice. Typical capitalism, typical republican garbage.

    ———————————————————————

    I meant my comment in the previous post to go to this clown.

  56. At this point what does it matter in concerns to Sam? The pick was for Oprah, The East Coast media (sports and news), Hollywood and the Democratic Party….forgot the BLT community.

  57. mack2x says:
    Mar 24, 2016 11:46 AM

    Rigging the draft, nice. Typical capitalism, typical republican garbage.
    —– What a miserable existence some people lead.
    ___________
    Even if this were true (which I doubt, as I opined in a previous post), the NFL would not have “fixed” the draft, it would only have requested that the Rams do something with that pick and offering some tangible compensation in return. In concept, it is no different than another NFL team requesting that the Rams trade them the pick and offering something in return (another pick, a player, etc.)

    You sound to me like one of the far too many brain dead liberals in this country who mindlessly regurgitate the “corrupt capitalism” talking points of leftist politicians (themselves the very embodiments of corruption – I’m looking at you Hillary Clinton) because they lack the ability for even the most basic critical thought. In this case, for example, it should be immediately apparent to pretty much anyone of sound mind and reasonable intelligence that to “rig the draft”, it would be necessary that the NFL as an organization had authority to dictate to the teams WRT their draft picks. The league works (collectively) for the owners – not the other way around. I’m not sure how you could have possibly missed that.

    It seems to me that you are one with a miserable existence. Maybe if you opened your eyes to the fact that you are lucky enough to live in a country where, even in the Obama economy, there are opportunities to work hard and succeed, you might feel better about yourself and the world around you.

  58. IF there is an investigation and IF there is truth to this, whoever is responsible for this should be immediately fired. To sacrifice the integrity of the game for a social propaganda agenda is so beyond despicable….I honestly just hope this is a rumor, but like always, where there’s smoke…

  59. Looking at the past few seasons of the SEC DPOTY and where they were drafted:

    2015 – Reggie Ragland – projected first round pick
    2014 – Shane Ray – #23 pick
    2013 – Michael Sam – 7th round pick (probably undrafted after today’s reporting).
    CJ Mosley – #17 pick
    2012 – Jarvis Jones – #17 pick
    2011 – Morris Claiborne – #6 pick
    2010 – Patrick Peterson – #5 pick

    Crazy to think that the SEC DPOTY would of gone undrafted, given the pedigree of winning that. Usually, winning that award means getting picked very high. While this is fishy, totally get where the NFL is coming from. This would of been a bad look and a PR nightmare, because detractors would have a great point given the evidence above. You could not say him being gay was not a factor in where he got picked. The SEC DPOTY should equal getting picked pretty high. What happened to Sam will set back NFL players being openly gay, because it’ will cost you millions. Sam could have gotten a ton or money if he was quiet about it, but choose to be open about his sexuality, and I commend him for doing that. But I think he has to regret being able to be set for life by just keeping quiet. Pretty sad if you ask me that he couldn’t be open about it without costing his livelihood.

  60. projectpat214 says:
    Mar 24, 2016 6:12 AM
    “The Rams drafting Sam made very little football sense. A team that went three deep on the D-line drafting an nonathletic tweener. Now we know why this happened”

    That “nonathletic tweener” was defensive player of the year in the SEC. Sam’s career in the NFL obviously didn’t work out. But let’s not pretend there wasn’t some modicum of skill.
    —————

    Meanwhile, Kony Ealy and Sheldon Richardson made him look good.

    Next!

  61. savojah says:
    Mar 24, 2016 12:52 PM
    Looking at the past few seasons of the SEC DPOTY and where they were drafted:

    2015 – Reggie Ragland – projected first round pick
    2014 – Shane Ray – #23 pick
    2013 – Michael Sam – 7th round pick (probably undrafted after today’s reporting).
    CJ Mosley – #17 pick
    2012 – Jarvis Jones – #17 pick
    2011 – Morris Claiborne – #6 pick
    2010 – Patrick Peterson – #5 pick

    Crazy to think that the SEC DPOTY would of gone undrafted, given the pedigree of winning that. Usually, winning that award means getting picked very high. While this is fishy, totally get where the NFL is coming from. This would of been a bad look and a PR nightmare, because detractors would have a great point given the evidence above. You could not say him being gay was not a factor in where he got picked. The SEC DPOTY should equal getting picked pretty high. What happened to Sam will set back NFL players being openly gay, because it’ will cost you millions. Sam could have gotten a ton or money if he was quiet about it, but choose to be open about his sexuality, and I commend him for doing that. But I think he has to regret being able to be set for life by just keeping quiet. Pretty sad if you ask me that he couldn’t be open about it without costing his livelihood.
    —————

    Or he was extremely slow, stiff in the hips and relatively unathletic. Everyone in that defense looked good because of the attacking, relentless style that Pinkel employed.

  62. silvernblacksabbath says:
    Mar 24, 2016 11:14 AM
    And soon you will see that Deflategate is just a PR stunt. The Pats will get their first pick back. This is the world we live in folks… Now start paying attention to fake news stories…
    ——-

    No they won’t, and Brady will get at least four games.

  63. NFL = WWF

    I miss the days where this game was a game.

    Ram’s fan since 1977 and they are a pathetic, I’m thoroughly embarrassed by this organization and have been for almost two decades. Terrible leadership…… the Ram’s aren’t about football…..at all……

  64. I have never been more blown away by the stupidity in the comment section….DO YOU REALLY THINK THIS REPORT IS TRUE? How over the top stupid you have to be to think it’s true. A team gave up a draft pick (even a 7th rounder still have a lot of value) so they could get out of hard knocks? I mean really, this is the dumbest comment section I’ve ever seen. Just read the report and freak out instead of stopping and considering what was said first. Here’s a free lesson morons, THIS STORY IS OBVIOUSLY FALSE IT NEVER HAPPENED.

  65. billsmafiaordie says:
    Mar 24, 2016 2:10 PM

    I have never been more blown away by the stupidity in the comment section….DO YOU REALLY THINK THIS REPORT IS TRUE? How over the top stupid you have to be to think it’s true. A team gave up a draft pick (even a 7th rounder still have a lot of value) so they could get out of hard knocks? I mean really, this is the dumbest comment section I’ve ever seen. Just read the report and freak out instead of stopping and considering what was said first. Here’s a free lesson morons, THIS STORY IS OBVIOUSLY FALSE IT NEVER HAPPENED.
    ———————

    There are bozos that still believe that 11 of 12 Patriots AFCCG footballs were 2psi below 12.5psi, so yes, some people do believe this report is true.

    Of course, it doesn’t help that the NFL has zero credibility

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