Michael Sam: Rams Teammates ‘Respect Me as a Human Being and as a Football Player’
By R.B. Fallstrom
ST. LOUIS — Michael Sam is confident he’ll be judged on performance.
The first openly gay player drafted in the NFL said there have been no issues fitting in with his St. Louis Rams teammates, no awkward moments in the locker room and that he was accepted right away.
“They respect me as a human being,” he said. “And as a football player.”
Being a bit of a cut-up helps cut the ice, too. Sam skipped all of the media days last season at Missouri while saving his announcement for February, but teammates will tell you he has quite a sense of humor and is not the least bit sensitive about off-color jokes that can fly behind closed doors.
“If anybody had any reservations about who he was to begin with, he wins them over pretty quick,” said wide receiver T.J. Moe, who played with Sam at Missouri. “They’re laughing so hard, they can’t breathe.”
Defensive tackle Michael Brockers said Sam was asked to stand up and tell a joke on Friday. The verdict: “Totally funny.”
“We don’t really focus on the outside stuff,” Brockers added. “He’s our brother, he’s on our D-line and that’s where it sits.”
Working out with the full squad, Sam realizes he must step up his game to carve out a spot on a loaded defensive line. He said he’s spending a lot of time poring over the playbook, too.
No doubt the Rams will give Sam every chance to succeed. But like any seventh-round pick, it’s an uphill battle.
“It’s faster, you’ve got to learn a lot more plays, you’ve got to know what you’re doing,” Sam said after a two-hour session. “You’re supposed to perform at a high level and I’m doing pretty good.”
Sam got a lot of snaps at left end with the second team defense, moving up on the depth chart because veteran William Hayes is rehabbing from an injury. He’s been getting a lot of work on special teams, where the Rams might break him in.
The Rams had one of the top pass rushes in the NFL last year with ends Robert Quinn, second in the NFL in sacks, and Chris Long both former first-round picks. So are tackles Brockers and rookie Aaron Donald, plus Kendall Langford was a major free agent pickup a year ago.
“I’m telling you, they get after it,” Sam said. “I thought our D-line at Mizzou was pretty tough. This is a whole new level.”