Posted on August 26, 2014 at 2:49 PM
ST. LOUIS (FootballStL) When the training camp starts rosters in the NFL can be at no bigger than 90. Less than a couple weeks before the first game they get chopped down to 75. When the season begins they have to be at 53.
Michael Sam, the first openly gay player in NFL history, did the first a while ago. As of today he’s now accomplished the second. The Rams made a grand total of 15 roster moves over the last couple days – including putting QB Sam Bradford on injured reserve – to get to the mandated limit of 75.
And guess whose name is still on it? Michael Sam.
The former Mizzou defensive end has been very good in the preseason thus far, registering three sacks, and now has his eye on actually making the team. From the very beginning the odds of Sam making the team seemed pretty small. The Rams already have a deep group of defensive ends featuring Robert Quinn, Chris Long, William Hayes and Eugene Sims.
Then there’s this guy named Ethan Westbrooks, an undrafted free agent from West Texas A&M, who’s created a lot more competition than many have expected.
But Sam has shown the ability to get to the quarterback that he showed at Mizzou and it’s going to be awfully hard to cut him from the roster. Putting pressure on opposing teams’ QBs is the name of the game nowadays in the NFL. If you don’t have time to throw you won’t be doing much of anything offensively.
So when you combine Michael Sam’s exploits in the SEC with what he’s done thus far in the preseason how can the Rams justify cutting what could amount to being yet another bona fide pass rusher?
The other factor here is special teams. Many are talking about how Sam doesn’t play on the punt return or kickoff team and typically that’s what guys at the back end of the roster have to do in order to stick. Well, Jeff Fisher put an end to that line of thinking this afternoon.
“I’ve went on record over the last couple of weeks about Michael Sam and his special teams contributions and it’s really unfair to have expectations of him to be productive at that because you just don’t…as a defensive end, you’re not asked to do those things.
“And he’s not a ‘tweener’ as people have referred to. He’s a defensive end, not a linebacker, and it’s rare that you get a defensive end that’s going to go out and contribute on all four of your core special teams. We have one defensive end on our team, Eugene Sims, that is on our punt protection team and that’s it. So, special teams is not part of the equation for Mike. We’re giving him every opportunity to do so and he’s participated in special teams practices and everything but that’s not going to be part of the criteria for the evaluations,” Jeff Fisher said.
The head coach went on to say Michael Sam will be evaluated solely on his ability to play defense. With what he’s done thus far in the preseason it would be awfully hard for him to get cut. But we still have one more exhibition, several more days and 22 more roster moves to make before we find out for sure.