By Eric Wilkins, Assistant Editor
Michael Sam’s NFL career may not be starting how he wanted it to, but there is one key fact: it is still going. Sam was recently signed to the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. The seventh-round pick of the St. Louis Rams was cut after the pre-season—a pre-season that saw him record 11 tackles and three sacks.
The immediate fallout the NFL had to be afraid of when the Rams cut him was that people would scream bloody murder as they pointed to his sexuality and how that was obviously the main reason he was no longer with the team. Thankfully, the majority of the public has shown a little sense for once in considering the situation instead of making an uniformed snap judgement. The fact of the matter was that Sam was always going to be a long shot to make the roster. Sure, he was drafted, but he was taken in the seventh round, 249th overall. Seventh rounders are hardly locks to make the team.
The fact that St. Louis was the organization that drafted him didn’t help matters either. For a learning experience, the Rams were a great destination for Sam, but defensive end is a position of strength for the city better known for pretty much anything other than football. With all-pro ends Robert Quinn and Chris Long and a slew of quality backups, namely William Hayes, it was an uphill battle from the start. Despite his impressive stat-line, Sam was outplayed by undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks.
The few who are trying to proclaim Sam’s release as unjust are the types who don’t really follow football—they just hopped on to support Sam. Support is wonderful, but doing anything blindly never goes well. While Westbrooks didn’t put up more sacks, stats aren’t everything. He’s a more well-rounded player who consistently showed better. Simple as that. If stats are what matter though, he can win there as well. Westbrooks’ Pro Football Focus overall defensive rating was 15.0 and led the NFL. The second-rated player was graded at 10.2. For comparison’s sake, Sam graded out to 0.6—good enough to be the 48th 4-3 defensive end out of 126. Any questions?
Although responsible for cutting him, Rams’ coach Jeff Fisher was clear about his opinion on Sam’s ability: “I believe he can play in this league.”
Coming from a man who knows a thing or two about defence, Sam has to be happy about that one. He may never blossom into the player many hope he will become one day, but if one thing’s for sure, it’s that he’s going to give it his best shot.