Is Michael Sam Not a Falcon Because He is Gay?

September 2, 2014 11:47 am

by Lawton Sack · 31 comments

AJC columnist and blogger Jeff Schultz makes a claim that Michael Sam is not playing in the NFL, or at least suiting up for a practice squad, because he is a homosexual:

The NFL, like any sports league, would like you to believe it’s not exclusionary. The problem with that expectation is a league can’t speak or act for individual team builders. That’s why Michael Sam is out of a job today — and for anybody who believes Sam’s sexuality has nothing to do with him being out of work today, keep reading.

Teams can sign 10 players to the practice squad, accounting for 320 jobs. In other words, in a league where pressuring the quarterback is one of the primary objectives, there is no room to this point for a player who won All-American honors at Missouri and accumulated 21 career sacks, including 11½ sacks and 19 tackles for loss as a senior.

As a sports junkie, I can attest that this same sentiment was echoed repeatedly on sports radio this morning by various guests and hosts, including the hosts of Mike and Mike In the Morning on ESPN Radio and Stephen A. Smith on Evans & Philips In The Morning on Mad Dog Radio.  They were adamant that Sam’s sexuality was the sole reason that he is without a job today, all repeating that he proved he was worthy to play in the NFL by being named the SEC co-defensive player of the year last year.

However, the problem is that Sam’s 2013 collegiate numbers are somewhat misleading, as 9 of his 11.5 sacks came in three games: Arkansas State, who barely beat GA State 35-33; the depleted Florida Gators (4-8); and Vanderbilt.

Further, CBS Sportsline described Sam after the combine in lackluster terms:  “At 6-feet-1 5/8, 260 pounds, Sam isn’t built like the prototype NFL defensive end and moved to outside linebacker for some drills at the Senior Bowl.  Reviews were mixed, and there are teams who view him as a classic tweener without a natural position.”

Sometimes guys appear to be impressive in college, with Heisman winning Tim Tebow being the perfect example, but they cannot ultimately compete at the highest level.  Despite these glaring facts, Schultz decided to bring the Atlanta Falcons into the conversation:

To this point, no team, including the pass-rush-starved Falcons, has signed Sam to its practice squad. If it stays that way and Sam has to go to Canada or some place to find a job, the NFL should be embarrassed.

When asked if the Falcons considered bringing in Sam, coach Mike Smith said Monday, “We put our practice squad together based on our needs. We felt like that we filled them with the 10 guys that we got. We have a familiarity with the majority of them. They’ve been in our camp and they understand what we are trying to do. They have a very good understanding of our scheme.”

I understand that the Falcons, who will be mostly a 3-4 defense, viewed Sam only as a guy who could play in a 4-3 base with his hand down. But Smith lost me with the first sentence, “We put our practice squad together based on our needs.”

I am not sure exactly why Schultz thinks that he is a better decision maker for the Falcons than Coach Smith, especially after clearly stating that the Falcons run a 3-4 a defense.  Most sports pundits agree that Sam is not a fit for a 3-4 defense and may not even be a real fit for a 4-3 defense.  The Falcons evidently have the people they feel are right for their football team.

Sam made the following statement at the combine:  “I wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player.  Not Michael Sam the gay football player.”

To me, we need to take Sam’s own words to heart and judge him on his football talent and not his sexual preference.  The same way that we have accepted that Tebow was judged on his lack of passing ability and not on the fact that he is a vocal Christian.

{ 31 comments… read them below or add one }

Jon Lester September 2, 2014 at 12:09 pm

Too bad NFL Europe isn’t in business anymore. One of the purposes it served was to provide more game experience for so-called “developmental” players.

CJBear71 September 2, 2014 at 12:26 pm

The fact that the SEC Defensive Player of the Year isn’t even on a practice squad is an outrage, and yes, it’s tied to his sexual orientation.

Here’s a story about the 2012 hybrid “tweener” players. Guess what – they’re all on NFL teams still this year.
http://www.nfl.com/seniorbowl/story/09000d5d82651afe/article/ranking-a-talented-group-of-hybrid-pass-rushers-in-mobile

2013 Tweeners? All still on NFL teams.
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1547188-nfl-draft-2013-defining-the-top-tweeners-true-position

He should have been taken much higher in the draft (4th round at worst) by a team with DE needs, not the deepest team at DE. This is homophobia in action. It’s a convenient excuse to make it look like “Oh we tried, he’s just not good enough” when many more players with lesser talent and work ethic get at least a couple of years to try and develop.

John Konop September 2, 2014 at 1:49 pm

In fairness to the St Louis not many 7th round draft picks make a team in his position without having special team skills. Also St Louis is heavy in his position. Had he had been taking in the 4rth or 5th round which was his projected round he would of been more than likely put on the taxi squad at best via lack of special team skills, but team invest more money into higher draft picks ie more time spent to develop. As far the rest of the league he needs a team that plays a 4-3 defense that can afford to develop him with understanding he is not a special teams type player. That is not an easy situation to find…..Finally the Falcons are shifting more toward a 3-4 which makes him a tough choice combined with lack of special team skills. This is why Kroy Biermann is still with the falcons ie special team play. Also why Reedy made taxi squad with even better stats for his position than Sam had in the preseason…..ie lack of special team skills. just my 10 cents…..

CJBear71 September 2, 2014 at 1:58 pm

Well why did one of the deepest teams at DE take him then? And if he was one of the last players to get cut on the team with the deepest DE roster in the league, why wouldn’t he be signed then by one of the other teams?

Granted… it is Tuesday. Maybe by Friday he’ll at least be signed to a practice squad and at least get a chance to get evaluated. But he has the talent to play in this league. He should be given a fair shot.

John Konop September 2, 2014 at 2:10 pm

1) ….Well why did one of the deepest teams at DE take him then?…

7th round picks are long shots….and he was a good value at the 7th round….great insurance policy via injuries in the preseason….

2) ……..why wouldn’t he be signed then by one of the other teams?…..

You have to find a team who plays a 4 3 defense that can afford to develop him without getting anything from him with special team play. The key will be injuries….as injuries happen he will get some looks….

3) …..he has the talent to play in this league…….

Not sure…..he has a great motor, plays hard….lacks in athletic skills….his combine stats were awful….but football is played on a field not a combine….others have made it via desire like him….

Michael Sam Combine Numbers and Measurements

…The number that sticks out most, arguably, is Sam’s disappointing performance in the bench press. Those concerned about his strength aren’t going to walk away assuaged. Sam’s total of 17 reps at 225 pounds was one of the lowest figures among defensive linemen, better than only UCLA’s Cassius Marsh……

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1971528-michael-sam-combine-results-and-instant-reaction

Lawton Sack September 2, 2014 at 2:20 pm

The NFL is brutal. There are approximately 250 people without a job after the last cut down to 53 players. Possible as many as twice that from the previous cut when rosters were cut down to 75.

Sam was evaluated at the combine and he did not score well, as you mentioned. It is tough to make the NFL, especially as a tweener. For every success story, there are dozens that do not succeed.

He may get another chance, but at this point, it will come at the cost of another player losing his job or quitting.

John Konop September 2, 2014 at 2:30 pm

Good point….

Three Jack September 2, 2014 at 2:14 pm

“Well why did one of the deepest teams at DE take him then?”

1. ESPN would have pitched a bigger hissy fit than they already were if Sam was not drafted.
2. Hometown team took him to appease the league and get feel good publicity.

joejohns September 2, 2014 at 2:55 pm

Keep that freak show that is Michael Sam away from my NFL team. As to why the Rams went there in the first place is puzzling. The Gay Agenda is all about using force and might to make you not only co-exist with homosexuals, but to stand up and applaud homosexuality. And you must stand up and applaud on their terms, or else.

Like last week when it came out that Michael Sam had good sense not to be going into the showers when other guys are in there…since after all he’s told everybody that he has a sexual attraction to naked guys. But the Gay Agenda was getting ready to pounce and to demand that somehow the Rams force guys to shower with him. I know the Gay Agenda has an obsession with conquering the NFL, but that’s the kind of freakishness that teams nor typical NFL fans have a stomach for.

Will Durant September 2, 2014 at 3:21 pm

This is what I’m talking about. The NFL is ultimately into selling soda and beer. Their players are not just chosen on their ability to play the game. Unless picked up by another team we will never know if this guy was good enough to play because of the extra baggage.

Noway September 2, 2014 at 4:34 pm

He ain’t on the team ’cause he ain’t that good a player. SEC Defensive Player of the Year? Spare me…If Tebow, who won the Heisman, no less, and had team mates who liked to play for him, ain’t on a team as a pro, then this guy ought to quit whining!

Ellynn September 2, 2014 at 12:29 pm

Sam had the misfortune of being drafted by a team that was already too heavy on defense players. The point that he can not fill in a hole in someone elses defense the first week going into the season is not surprising. Many players drafted after the third round have ended up being cut but picked up in the next month by teams needing practice, or 3rd-4th string players. Anyone who follows footbal knows this.

bsjy September 2, 2014 at 12:43 pm

Based on his actions, this statement is patently false:
Sam made the following statement at the combine: ”I wish you guys would see me as Michael Sam the football player. Not Michael Sam the gay football player.”
Shut up and play football if you want to be judged as a football player.
Get the TV camera to record you smooching your boyfriend if you want other things to be in our minds.
It is entirely your choice.

Will Durant September 2, 2014 at 12:46 pm

I’m for gays being treated the same as everyone else but in the world of sports the big bucks only come when your follow the advice of Bull Durham’s Crash Davis to make the show. “I’m just here to help the team, I just play ‘em one game at a time”, etc. If he wanted a real shot at the big time he should have stayed in the closet until his playing days were over.

Lea Thrace September 2, 2014 at 12:48 pm

Wow. That is all kinds of offensive. But that’s your right I suppose.

Will Durant September 2, 2014 at 1:05 pm

Offensive to the typical NFL fan? Probably. Look at some of the comments in Shultz’s column. The NFL is entertainment, just like in the movies where until recently an actor who wanted to play the macho roles couldn’t let it be known that they are gay without killing their career. Even as liberal as Hollywood is perceived if the rumors are to be believed some of them still stay in the closet today. The sports world and the NFL in particular demand the stereotypes if they want to have a successful career.

Harry September 2, 2014 at 1:20 pm

Lots of blamage on all sides. Now some leading actresses have been outed as closet wannabe pornstars.

oscardagrch September 2, 2014 at 1:19 pm

If Josh Gibson had wanted to play in the majors he should have been white…

That’s what I get out of your idiotic comment.

Will Durant September 2, 2014 at 1:32 pm

Unfortunately for his era you are correct. I don’t have to like Jim Crow to view it as an historical truth. I would have to be an idiot to pretend it never existed.

Chet Martin September 2, 2014 at 3:12 pm

But why reinforce it? If gay Americans are going to be treated equally, then there should be nothing but applause for the first football player who had the courage to come out of the closet. Most football fans know the name of Tom Brady’s wife, we see AJ McCarron’s girlfriend in the stands, we recoil at the horrific way Ray Rice treats his former fiance. In a celebrity culture, sports players romantic partners become part of their media brands. Because of that, closeted gay players are forced to live dishonestly. That’s an injustice and it should be righted.

It’s not helpful to ask Jackie Robinson to wear whiteface.

Will Durant September 2, 2014 at 3:45 pm

Jackie Robinson could not have passed for white nor would I have wanted him to even try. The courage he used to swallow his pride and take it that first year earned him all of the accolades his legacy has received and my personal admiration. But if he had not had superlative baseball skills then his trailblazing would have been in vain.

I don’t follow the NFL much anymore as I’m pretty much with Seinfeld that you are just rooting for laundry. But it would take someone living in an traditional aboriginal tribe in New Guinea not to understand that the multi-billion dollar entertainment venue that is the NFL cares about appearances. If not, then they wouldn’t be so quick to suspend players for off-field antics or cover them up in the case of one that is too good to suspend. If Sam was a world beater and had top level talent then it would have probably worked for him to have come out about being gay. All I am saying is that we may never know if he was good enough because they want the fans thinking that these guys are all about the team and not just all about the money. The extra baggage along with him possibly only being marginal is working against him. I don’t say this because I have a personal prejudice, or much of one anyway, all of us have some to someone who is different from ourselves. But if the shoe was on the other foot and I thought I could make millions for simply playing ball I would have no problem at all pretending I was gay if that is what it took.

To insert my straw man ahead of yours would you have had Rock Hudson or even Errol Flynn give up their careers and come out as gay in their time?

Harry September 2, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Let’s not confuse civil rights with the homosexuals’ agenda.

joejohns September 2, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Thank you for saying that. The Civil Rights Movement and civil rights have nothing to do with the homosexual agenda.

DAinGA September 2, 2014 at 4:15 pm

That’s ridiculous since his NFL prospects were always going to be a long shot. So why not be who you are. And what if he had not come out and then it hit after he was drafted (since he was out at college)? Then the meme would have been “if only he had been honest, but how could he ever be trusted”. Please, he was damned if he did and damned if he didn’t, so he might as well be true to himself.

Three Jack September 2, 2014 at 2:16 pm

If Sam was talented enough to play in the NFL, a team would pick him up.

Bobloblaw September 2, 2014 at 4:12 pm

“”AJC columnist and blogger Jeff Schultz makes a claim that Michael Sam is not playing in the NFL, or at least suiting up for a practice squad, because he is a homosexual:””

Im sure it has nothing to do with his being picked 249 out of 256

DAinGA September 2, 2014 at 4:22 pm

“all repeating that he proved he was worthy to play in the NFL by being named the SEC co-defensive player of the year last year.”

Huh, did you read Schultz’s column? He doesn’t say that he was worth being on at least the practice squad ONLY because he was 2013 SEC co-defensive player of the year. He clearly stated that part of the reason was his performance during the pre-season: “But Sam had three sacks for the Rams. According to NFL.com, only 12 players had at least 2½ sacks. Ten of the 12 are on active rosters and one (San Diego’s Cordarro Law) was signed to the Chargers’ practice squad.”

John Konop September 2, 2014 at 4:37 pm

Cordarro is a bad example…..he plays special teams…..without the special team skills not sure if he would even be on the development squad…. this squad are not just for development they also need guys to step up in case of injuries….a player with special team skills usually gets first nod…..The real example would be how many FA and 7th round draft picks with no special teams skills made teams other than kickers and QB?

Lawton Sack September 2, 2014 at 4:47 pm

Yes, I read the entire article several times. The “SEC co-defensive player of the year” was used by Schultz and the others this morning as their main point. Schultz did in fact use Sam’s 3 sacks from this preseason, but he prefaced by saying “Statistics in the NFL’s preseason can be misleading.” I could have included it in my posting, but I was honestly trying to avoid becoming redundant.

Charlie September 2, 2014 at 4:50 pm

The Twitter tells me that he’s getting a physical with Dallas and should be signed by the end of the week. Not sure if for a roster spot or for practice squad, but hopefully we’ll be able to settle this argument at some point by getting to see how he competes.

John Konop September 2, 2014 at 4:53 pm

I hope the guy makes it…..he goes 110% all the time…..but I also get why some teams for football reasons would not want to make the investment.

FYI

Cowboys plan to add Michael Sam to practice squad

http://profootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2014/09/02/cowboys-plan-to-add-michael-sam-to-practice-squad/