Michael Sam continues to hold out hope for NFL career

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Free-agent pass-rusher Michael Sam, the first openly-gay NFL player who has yet to play in a regular-season NFL game, created a mild buzz this week with things he said, and didn’t say, to TMZ.

The headline to the TMZ article blares that Sam declared, “I’m not in the NFL because I’m gay.”  But that’s not exactly what he said.

“I think I was the SEC defensive player of the year last year, so I don’t think it had to do with talent,” Sam said.

Sam, who was drafted by the Rams and later spent time on the Dallas practice squad, elaborated on the situation via Twitter.

“Despite what headlines you may read, I’ve never said and have never believed that I am being kept out of the league,” Sam said.  “I know I have talent to play in the NFL and I look forward to getting an opportunity once again to prove that I can help a team win.”

While he never said he’s being blackballed because of his sexual orientation, his comments to TMZ show that he believes that the failure of any team to give him one of 53 roster spots or 10 positions on the practice squad after dozens of players have landed on injured reserve has no relation to his ability.  So either all 32 teams are simply missing the boat, or they’re making the decision for reasons other than talent.

Regardless, it’s clear that Sam currently hasn’t been able to attract the NFL’s attention.  If that continues once the regular-season ends and rosters expand to 90 (that’s 2,880 offseason jobs), Sam will need to consider other ways to hone his craft.

In that regard, he should consider the example set by Dolphins defensive end Cameron Wake.  Wake possessed the talent after emerging from Penn State in 2005, but Wake couldn’t keep a job in the NFL, being released in June by the Giants after arriving in April as an undrafted free agent.  With nothing happening for Wake over the rest of 2005 or in 2006, he signed with the B.C. Lions of the CFL in May 2007.

At that point, Wake’s talent became undeniable.  His 16 sacks made him the CFL’s rookie of the year and defensive player of the year in the same season.  After a second year in Canada, the NFL came calling; Bill Parcells and company lured Wake to Miami, and Wake has since become one of the best pass rushers in the NFL.

For Sam, the same path could be his key to getting a chance in the NFL.  But the move comes with considerable risk.  Players like Tim Tebow and Vince Young have resisted the chance to demonstrate their skills in Canada, possibly because they feared the ramifications of failure in the CFL.  For Tebow and Young, they can continue to tell themselves (and others) that they had the ability to play in the NFL and that every NFL team missed the boat.  Failing to demonstrate the ability to thrive in the CFL would have destroyed that myth.

Eventually, Michael Sam may have to ask himself whether he’s willing to risk the perception that he has the talent to play in the NFL by testing those talents in Canada.  If he’s right, he could be the next Cameron Wake.  If he’s wrong, the notion that he has the skill to succeed in the NFL but that he’s not getting the chance to demonstrate it goes out the window, permanently.

41 responses to “Michael Sam continues to hold out hope for NFL career

  1. If Michael Sam still harbors hope to ball in the NFL, he sure didn’t do himself any favors bashing the NFL by implying he was a victim of the race card.

  2. And I continue to hold out hope he never signs with a professional team in any capacity ever again. Sam utterly bombed his combine and it’s important to remember he was CO-DPotY of the SEC. And he wasn’t even deserving of that considering 9 of sacks happened in 3 games, 2 of the 3 being dumpster competition. If he didn’t pull the coming out stunt, there is no doubt he wouldn’t have been drafted at all.

  3. He came out to further his celebrity and for the added attention, it’s been proven in the NFL that if you have superior talent, you’ll be given a chance to play. This guy is just average, maybe even below, so the attention that he brings to a team isn’t worth his sub-par talent.

  4. Yeah, headlines like those on TMZ aren’t going to help Sam’s cause.

    The media frenzy surrounding Sam’s coming out of the closet really hurt him in two ways. First, it helped set unrealistic expectations for him among the sports media, where you had some very prominent sports writers more interested in the social aspects of this instead of whether or not Sam could play in the NFL. Second, that media frenzy no doubt scared off some teams. Tony Dungy’s explanation as to why he would not have drafted Sam showed the consequences of that media frenzy, and my guess is many NFL teams were thinking just like Dungy.

    If Sam had evaluated out as a first round talent, things would have been different.

    If Sam can play football, he’s going to get a job on an NFL roster. He may need to go to Canada for a couple of years to continue to ply his trade – you can’t get better if you’re not playing. If he wants to continue trying for an NFL career, he needs to keep playing somewhere. I wish him the best.

  5. The CFL is a vastly underrated league.

    I am not sure why more potential NFL players dont explore this route more often

  6. The biggest strike against SAM is he does not have any NFL talent. College football yep he was great just like many others who have done well in college and not succeeded in the NFL. The fact he is gay is just is secondary. If the NFL had a large gay fan base then maybe I could see him on a team but they don’t so his talent-less self can stay at home.

  7. You can’t compare Sam and Wake.

    Wake had NFL size, speed, and athleticism (still holds the LB record for vertical leap at the combine, I believe). The game just didn’t click for him at the time.

    Sam doesn’t have NFL size, speed or athleticism.

  8. not helping himself when he is basically saying to TMZ that he has the ability to play, so it must be something else(wonder what he is virtually referring to…..)

    that will only put you OFF the list of players to call

  9. Sam should take the offer Montreal has on the table for him. He fits perfectly into CFL defenses. Get some tape. Get some game reps, particularly against the teams in the weaker eastern division, then try to get back into the NFL two seasons from now.

    Plus, it’s Montreal. Who wouldn’t enjoy the culture there if they could, you know?

  10. He was cut TWICE in 6 weeks because he was poor in practice. He didn’t work that hard. He could have easily been on Dallas’ starting 53 considering the condition of the LB corps.

    If you can’t show anything resembling hustle, work and a pass rush on anyone’s practice squad, you’re going to get cut every.single.time.

    So he had to go “there” because the world wants to hear how he likes dudes and that’s why he got cut. No, 32 teams now have passed on him because the work ethic and talent wasn’t there for the NFL level.

  11. So, in his mind, he thinks it doesn’t have to do with talent. Isn’t that the same as saying he’s being blackballed because he’s gay? Then, what exactly does it have to do with?

    Personally, I think he’s overstating his (limited) abilities. 32 teams passed on him round after round until the Rams took a flyer on him. Couldn’t stay on the Cowboys practice squad even though there was never any word about him being a distraction? Seems to me it is about his (lack of) talent.

  12. What I took away: The Giants could have had Cameron Wake at the same time as Tuck, Osi, and Strahan. That reminds me of how Buffalo had all that talent at RB a few years ago and came away with almost nothing!

  13. He is being kept out of the nfl because of the fact that he is gay. Teams such as Jacksonville, and Atlanta badly need pass rushers and he isn’t good enough to make at least their practice squads?

  14. Being a great college player DOES NOT mean you have the talent to play in the NFL. Teams are full blown win now. If he couldn’t cut it with the Cowboys who legitimately had a need, then he truly may not have what it takes to play in the NFL.

    Accept that.

  15. What about all of the other players that did not make it to the NFL. Why is there no reporting on their situations?
    Because he is gay he gets favoritism from the press and the press ignores the fact he does not have the ability to play professional football at the NFL level.

  16. SEC defensive player of the year means nothing at the NFL level. Unless you believe college level accolades means you MUST be an NFL caliber player. If so, let me introduce you to my friends Troy Smith, Tim Tebow, Matt Leinart, Collin Klein….

  17. No one would know this guys name if he hadn’t “come out”.

    Play better, or go get a real job. Oh, that’s right. You can’t play any better than you are.

    Being PC doesn’t matter in a results oriented business.

  18. uh, reality check labeled a tweener coming out of college little to small, slow and weak a great college player but not the fist tweener to not make it in the nfl

  19. The Cameron Wake comparison is an excellent one. He went up there and kicked butt.

    That is a good league. It’s not a novelty. Not every guy on the field is NFL caliber but on any given play there are NFL caliber players on the field.

  20. So tired of hearing this. He was a 7th ROUND DRAFT PICK. There are guys who won Heisman Trophies and other who dominated college who were either undrafted or could not play a lick of NFL football. Were they of a different orientation too?

    It also shows his entitlement with a matter of fact comment in, “I think I was the SEC player of the year so I don’t think it’s talent.”

    Oh really? You think you can just arrive and be GIVEN a roster spot? It’s annoying.

  21. I think I was the SEC defensive player of the year last year, so I don’t think it had to do with talent,” Sam said.

    Really?…see how many Heisman Trophy winners failed in the NFL…

  22. It’s not because you’re gay, it’s because of the media circus that would along with because you’re gay. Want a chance? Then stop doing interviews and saying things like this. The media is only hurting your chances.

  23. The Cameron Wake comparison is a ridiculous one. In no way does Sam’s measurables or potential compare to Wake’s. Wake didn’t get smoked in the 40 at the combine by OGs like Sam did. So, I’ll give 20-1 odds that Sam never records as many as 5 sacks in an NFL season, even if a miracle occurs and he makes it back onto a roster.

  24. In the NFL where the level of competition is intense it is hard to believe teams would pass on him because of his sexual preference. It does not make sense. He is trying to compare his college accomplishments to the pro level. That is just dumb.

  25. You only have to look at guys like Chris Borland on the 49ers to see that a player can succeed, even if he’s told that he’s too small, too slow, too short in the arm…

    I agree that Sam has to play to improve, and that I’d love to see him in the CFL with its pass-happy rules… although I’d prefer to see him in the orange of the BC Lions than go and try to learn French in Montreal 😉

  26. Show me done other player that was SEC player of the year, showed up in preseason and got sacks and couldn’t even make a practice squad? He is a pass rusher and those are hot commodities. If you don’t think him being gay isn’t part of it than you aren’t paying attention. Not saying he is going to pan out in the NFL but no one with his accomplishments wouldn’t be at least on a practice squad at this point.

  27. texansdan says:
    Dec 5, 2014 10:08 AM
    It’s not because you’re gay, it’s because of the media circus that would along with because you’re gay. Want a chance? Then stop doing interviews and saying things like this. The media is only hurting your chances.


    This is such garbage. There was barely any extra media during the preseason and when he came into the game when he was playing the Packers it wasn’t even mentioned until he got a sack. The media is a convenient excuse. They give guys with far bigger issues a chance.

  28. Tebow, Griffin, Sam, they all have the same attitude, that they somehow deserve a job in the NFL. If they really wanted to play pro football, they could be playing pro football somewhere.

    Its not a talent issue, its an attitude issue.

  29. plenty of players who were great in college sucked in the NFL or never got much more than preseason/practice squad reps. Fact is, you can get by playing ok against crappy programs best players but in the league your flaws get magnified. Its not “media circus” problem, its talent, coaches get paid to win, if you can help a team win they will find room for you

  30. “I think I was the SEC defensive player of the year last year, so I don’t think it had to do with talent”

    So going with that logic, every Heisman winner should be a star in the NFL right? What you were in college doesn’t matter in the NFL. He’s too small, too slow, and not strong enough…not good traits for an NFL D-lineman

  31. So he hangs his hat on being defensive player of the year in the SEC as why he deserves to be on an NFL team? How many players have won the Heismann and still bombed in the NFL? Need more than 1 minor accolade on the old college resume to make that claim. That’s reality. Hope the CFL works out for him…

  32. “I think I was the SEC defensive player of the year last year, so I don’t think it had to do with talent,” Sam said.

    I think Tim Tebow won the Heisman, where is he now?

    The NFL isn’t the NCAA.

  33. Shame he didn’t stick in St. Louis. Imagine if he was one of the 5 players coming out of the tunnel doing the “hands up, don’t shoot” crap!? Imagine the
    media on that!!!

  34. Buckybadger

    Tim tebow not only won 2 2(not a huge college fb fan so may be wrong) national championships, a hiseman and mutiple time runner up AND lead an NFL team to the playoffs and guess what? He was traded the next year and never started again. What have you done lately? Oh and then there’s troy smith who won a hiseman and only started like 4 games for the Ravens after they lost like 3 quarterbacks. Get real fool

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