Those who were surprised that the St. Louis Rams decided to waive Michael Sam are not football fans. Because those who follow the NFL carefully, weren’t surprised at all. The only occurrence this week that could be classified as a mild surprise is that the Rams decided to pass on adding Sam to its practice squad. (Sam was not claimed by any NFL team, and is now a free agent.)
Even though Michael Sam was an accomplished college player, he never struck me as a serious NFL talent. As a defensive end who plays exclusively in the 4-3 scheme, his options were already limited to the 15 NFL teams that deploy that defensive style. He’s undersized as a defensive end, but too big (and too slow) to be a linebacker. He also doesn’t play special teams well — which is vital for players such as Sam.
When Michael Sam was drafted in the 7th round this past May, many speculated that he would have been drafted higher had he not come out as gay. I disagree. In retrospect, I believe that Sam’s coming out helped his draft positioning. Being that be played his college ball at Missouri, it is no coincidence that St. Louis decided to give the state favorite a legitimate chance to make an NFL team. After enduring all the buzz and attention after drafting Sam, the team certainly would have given him every opportunity to make the team and cement history. The fact that the team would not even retain him for its practice squad tells you everything you need to know — he’s a good football player, but not good enough or versatile enough to play in the NFL.
Good college players strike out in the NFL all the time. Remember Tim Tebow?
I don’t believe that Michael Sam is out of the NFL because he is gay. If he were an outstanding player, he’d be on a team, because winning is everything. And if someone can help your team win, it doesn’t matter if they direct dog fights or beat their wives unconscious. Just ask Michael Vick and Ray Rice.
Michael Sam is still a pioneer having achieved something that no one else did before him — he was drafted as an openly gay man. That’s not nothing. In fact, that’s a huge achievement. The next Michael Sam will journey down a much easier path.