Rams cut Michael Sam, 1st openly gay player drafted in the NFL

  • Article by: R.B. FALLSTROM , Associated Press
  • Updated: August 31, 2014 - 5:51 PM
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St. Louis Rams defensive end Michael Sam (96) sits on the sidelines during the first half of an NFL preseason football game against the Miami Dolphins, Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Fla.

Photo: Lynne Sladky, Associated Press - Ap

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ST. LOUIS — Not long after Michael Sam waved to an adoring crowd at Missouri's season opener, he looked down at his cell phone.

It was 3 p.m. CT, the deadline for NFL teams to pare rosters to 53 players. And the Rams coach was talking to the players who didn't make the cut.

He headed into the locker room. At some point, his phone rang with the bad news: He didn't make the cut.

Twenty others were cut by the St. Louis Rams on Saturday, all of them mere footnotes. For Sam, it meant a roadblock in his journey to become the first openly gay player to make an NFL roster.

Over and over, coach Jeff Fisher said, it was purely a football decision.

"I will tell you this: I was pulling for Mike," Fisher said. "I really was, and I don't say that very often. Mike came in here and did everything we asked him to do."

The seventh-round draft pick projected confidence while scrutinized at least as closely as Browns rookie quarterback Johnny Manziel. He's been cheered by athletes and celebrities, denigrated by just a few.

In the end, the defensive end couldn't make a team stocked with pass rushers and lost out to undrafted Ethan Westbrooks, who proved more productive and more versatile.

Fisher believes Sam has an NFL future, and it still could be with the Rams. If he's not picked up by another team, he could land on the St. Louis practice squad.

"I can't go there right now," Fisher said. "Coaches don't talk about practice squads because we have to see what happens. We'll know better tomorrow afternoon."

Wherever he lands, Fisher said "there will be no challenge, no challenges whatsoever."

"He's not about drawing attention to himself," Fisher said. "He kept his head down and worked and you can't ask anything more out of any player for that matter."

On Twitter, roughly an hour after he was cut, Sam wrote "The most worthwhile things in life rarely come easy, this is a lesson I've always known. The journey continues."

He also thanked the Rams and city of St. Louis on Twitter, adding that he looks forward to a long and successful career.

Sam was introduced to the Missouri crowd in the end zone alongside defensive E.J. Gaines, a sixth-round pick who made the team. He blew a kiss and waved before returning to the sideline, then posed for a few pictures before starting to look at his phone, and then headed for the locker room.

Fisher personally delivered the news to the 20 others released in meetings Friday and Saturday, but didn't seem to mind that Sam was out of town, visiting his alma mater. The conversation was perfunctory, with plans for a face-to-face meeting on Sunday.

"He said 'Yes sir,' and he said, 'I understand.' He said, 'Thanks for the opportunity,' and I said, 'Mike, I'm looking forward to visiting with you tomorrow,' and he goes, 'I am, too.'"

Sam was the SEC co-defensive player of the year at Missouri and had been projected as a mid-round draft pick. His stock fell after a poor combine showing not long after he came out as gay in February, and the Rams took him with the 249th overall pick out of 256.

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