Michael Sam among last of 1,100+ players cut this week by NFL teams
Openly gay defensive lineman Michael Sam didn't make the final cut for the St. Louis Rams on Saturday, Aug. 30, 2014. (Scott Rovak/USA TODAY Sports)
Rookie Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL football player, on Saturday was among the last of more than 1,100 league players to be cut this week.
The team that selected him near the end of May’s draft, the St. Louis Rams, announced that the specialist pass-rusher was among 21 players waived.
All players released on Friday or Saturday are eligible to sign with other teams starting Sunday at noon EDT. Failing that, they can accept an offer to join a team’s 10-man practice squad.
Reports out of St. Louis late this week suggested the Rams, overflowing with able pass rushers, hoped that Sam would be available for a practice-squad assignment. He played ably in four preseason games, though, and might sign elsewhere.
The Rams wound up cutting all five of the players they selected in the sixth and seventh rounds.
“I want to thank the entire Rams organization and the city of St. Louis for giving me this tremendous opportunity, and allowing me to show I can play at this level,” Sam tweeted. “I look forward to continuing to build on the progress I made here toward a long and successful career.
“The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy, this is a lesson I’ve always known. The journey continues.”
Sam announced two weeks before the NFL scouting combine in February for top draft prospects that he is gay.
“I just wish you guys would just see me as Michael Sam the football player, instead of Michael Sam the gay football player,” he told hundreds of reporters at the combine.
The problem for Sam in some analysts’ eyes at that time, which was borne out on the Rams’ practice fields this summer, is that he’s a dreaded ’tweener -- a bit small at 6-foot-2, 255 pounds to be a top-flight pass rusher, yet not fast or agile enough to be a pass-covering linebacker in space.
Which means he’s a liability in a 3-4 base defence, and strictly a defensive-end pass rusher in a 4-3.
Most analysts slotted him as a late-round draft pick, if he’d get drafted at all, even though at the University of Missouri he was named the defensive player of the year in college football’s premier conference, the SEC.
The Rams took him with the eighth last pick of the draft, late in the seventh round, No. 249th overall. To the credit of his head coach Jeff Fisher and his staff, and of his Rams teammates, Sam’s sexual preference never became an issue during his three-and-a-half months in St. Louis.
“It was a football decision,” Fisher said. “It was a football decision back in May to draft Mike.
“I will tell you this: I was pulling for Mike. I really was. I don’t say that very often, but Mike came in here and did everything that we asked him to do.”
Fisher said Sam knew he had a tough task to crack the Rams lineup, as the team already had four solid defensive ends.
Until Tuesday, teams were allowed 90-man rosters. They had to cut to 75 players by Tuesday afternoon, before trimming to 53 on Saturday for the regular season.
The regular season kicks off next Thursday night, when Green Bay visits defending Super Bowl champion Seattle. The other 30 teams open Sunday, Sept. 7 and Monday, Sept. 8.
The list includes: RB Mikel Leshoure (Lions), CB Champ Bailey (Saints), WR/KR Chris Williams (the former Hamilton Ticats star, by the Bears); WR Stephen Hill (a second-round pick by the Jets two years ago); WR T.J. Graham (a third-round pick by the Bills two years ago); WR Greg Little (Raiders), DL Jerel Worthy (Patriots), S Kurt Coleman (Vikings), S Major Wright (Bucs) and Alex Henery (the Eagles’ veteran PK).
VETERAN QUARTERBACKS CUT
Terrelle Pryor and B.J. Daniels (Seahawks), Curtis Painter (Giants), Jeff Tuel (Bills), Zac Dysert (Broncos), Brad Sorensen (Chargers), Ricky Stanzi (Jaguars).
ROOKIE QUARTERBACKS CUT
Tajh Boyd (Jets), Connor Shaw (Browns), Stephen Morris (Jaguars).
EJ’S LATEST BACKUP
The Buffalo Bills signed former Dallas Cowboys QB Kyle Orton, after whacking three backups to EJ Manuel in the past five days: Thad Lewis, Jordan Palmer and Jeff Tuel. Orton, who backed up Tony Romo in Dallas for the past two seasons, signed for one year plus an option year. Don’t be surprised if the Bills acquire another passer, if only for the practice squad.
HOT CANUCK IN CAROLINA
There were reports Saturday afternoon that Carolina OL David Foucault, an undrafted rookie free agent from La Prairie, Que., had been cut. But the Panthers in fact kept Foucault on the 53. Even if the 6-foot-8, 320-pound tackle from the University of Montreal winds up on the practice squad, Foucault had a helluva camp for an undrafted Canadian university player. He was selected fifth overall in the May’s CFL draft by the Montreal Alouettes.
It was no surprise that the Kansas City Chiefs retained rookie OL Laurent Duvernay-Tardif of Mont-Saint-Hilaire, Que. The team sorely needs promising offensive linemen, and the sixth-round draft pick is raw but uber-talented.
Early in training camp, Baltimore Ravens DE Brent Urban of Mississauga tore an ACL and was placed on injured reserve. He’ll miss the season.
Canadian veterans cut included New York Giants DE Israel Idonije of Brandon, Man., and Cleveland Browns LB Jamaal Westerman of Toronto.
Former star Pittsburgh Steelers LB James Harrison announced his retirement.
Jeff Fisher says Michael Sam wasn't a distraction ... "I think there was a lot more made of it than there should've been."— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 30, 2014
Yeah, no one cares abut Michael Sam... who has the number 5 selling jersey in the entire NFL #eyeroll— Benjamin Allbright (@AllbrightNFL) August 30, 2014
Bummed about Michael Sam, but I'm glad he got drafted at all. Hopefully it inspires some other organizations to move past the homogenization— Nic Penn (@TheNicPenn) August 30, 2014
I knew Michael Sam wouldn't make the team. Why? He's too small for an NFL D line men— CULPEPPER (@christian_cpepp) August 30, 2014
Michael Sam getting cut is not news. Get over it— Kyle Martin (@kmartx01) August 30, 2014