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.