Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted into the NFL, will have to wait a little longer to make a regular-season roster in the pros.
Sam, a unanimous All-American defensive end last season at Missouri, was cut by the St. Louis Rams on Saturday just before the NFL deadline to reduce rosters to 53 players for opening week. Sam still has a chance to be picked up by another team or, if he clears waivers, be assigned to the Rams’ practice squad.
Sam attended Mizzou’s season opener Saturday at Memorial Stadium in Columbia and was greeted with a loud ovation when he and former Tigers cornerback E.J. Gaines, who made the Rams’ 53-man roster, were introduced in the first quarter. Sam didn’t speak to reporters at the game, but made a statement on his Twitter account.
“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,” he said. “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.”
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel hoped Sam would get another NFL opportunity elsewhere.
“I think he had a great camp,” Pinkel said after MU’s 38-18 win over South Dakota State. “Every team’s needs are different. Hopefully, there’s somebody out there that he can fit in with what they’re doing.”
The Rams drafted Sam, the 2013 Southeastern Conference co-defensive player of the year, in the seventh round this May. He was chosen 249th overall in the 256-pick draft.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Sam would be treated like every other player hoping to make the team. But Sam also attracted a lot of attention. He canceled a planned reality show soon after it was announced.
“I will tell you this: I was pulling for Mike, I really was,” Fisher said Saturday in a news conference. “And I don’t say that very often. Mike came in here and did everything we asked him to do.”
He added: “It was a football decision, and the decision is no different than any other decision that we make. It was a football decision. It was a football decision back in May to draft Mike.”
Sam performed decently during the preseason, including sacking Johnny Manziel, the highly touted rookie quarterback on the Cleveland Browns. He can still make the Rams’ practice squad.
“There’s no challenge with respect to Mike Sam,” Fisher said, referring to a team that might want to pick up Sam. “He’s not about drawing attention to himself. He kept his head down and worked and you can’t ask anything more out of any player for that matter.”
According to ESPN, Sam had 11 tackles and three sacks during the preseason and had a team-high six tackles in the last preseason game.
Several other 2013 Tigers were cut Saturday: Dolphins linebacker Andrew Wilson, Panthers wide receiver Marcus Lucas and 49ers wide receiver L’Damian Washington.
Washington, who was released by the Cowboys earlier in the month, told The Star in a text message he expected to sign with San Francisco’s practice squad.
Eagles running back Henry Josey, Steelers tight end Eric Waters and Lions quarterback James Franklin previously had been cut.
| The Star’s Tod Palmer contributed to this report