Jason Garrett, rhe Dallas Cowboys’ head coach, confirmed that Michael Sam would be joining the franchise’s practice squad.
In a regularly scheduled press-conference Calvin Watkins of ESPN reported Garrett as commenting that, although the Cowboys decided against drafting Sam in May, “we evaluate these guys all throughout the pre-season.” And Garrett wished to make clear that the decision to sign Sam was made solely on sporting grounds.
“I think we’ve probably talked too much about a practice squad player,” Garrett told reporters, "this is about football, we evaluated him as a football player and think he can help us as a football player.”
In May Sam became the first openly gay player to be drafted in the history of the NFL. The 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year joined the St. Louis Rams in seventh-round of the draft after having made his sexuality publically known at the end of his college career.
On Monday, though, Sam’s ambition to become the first openly gay athlete to compete in a regular season NFL game was dealt a serious blow; he was one of the 22 players cut from the Ram’s 53-man final roster.
Garrett’s decision to afford Sam the opportunity to prove his worth with the Cowboys, therefore, has come as considerable relief to the 24-year-old who, some reports suggested, may be forced to move to the Canadian Football League in search of competitive action.
“I’m excited to be to be joining Dallas,” Sam told the Dallas Morning News on Tuesday “I just want to play football, it’s great to be heading back to my home state.”
Sam is presently the most divisive personality in the NFL and has sponsorship deals with the likes of Pikalainat - Lainan.fi.
On the one hand there are commentators who view Sam’s career solely through the prism of his sexuality.
These analysts assert that the only reason why the Rams drafted Sam in the first place was as a means of generating positive publicity. They suggest that his cutting this week was merely a product of the institutionalized homophobia that still characterizes the NFL.
And given the fact that the Cowboys have signed 16 defensive ends ahead of Sam this pre-season, some pundits argue that Dallas are taking Sam on owing only to the size of his media profile.
As Garrett made clear in his press-conference, though, there are cogent footballing reasons why the Rams cut Sam and why the Cowboys have brought him in for practice.
The Rams possess a strong defensive line this season; and Sam, despite performing well in practice, was essentially surplus to requirements.
The Rams’ head-coach, Jeff Fisher, stated as much when announcing his 53-man roster.
Similarly, Sam constitutes an upgrade on many of the defensive ends that have joined the Cowboys on practice contracts to date.
He is one of only 12 players to record more than 2.5 sacks this preseason, for example, and all 11 of his peers are now confirmed as part of 53-man rosters.
Form alone, then, dictates that Sam is qualified to represent the Cowboys in the NFL. Refreshingly this indicates that his acquisition is born of a prudent assessment of sporting realities rather than any cynical attempt at self-promotion. And this can only be a positive step forward for the game.Published 05 Sep 2014, 14:29 IST