DE Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL player, was cut by the St. Louis Rams yesterday, but his story is likely not over. Several teams around the league are likely all interested in Sam, but the right fit for this rookie may not be so obvious.
The New England Patriots, however, provide an environment that would serve Sam, and the team, well.
Sam is a talented player, there is no doubt about that. The former SEC Defensive Player of the Year and seventh-round draft pick played well in the preseason, but apparently not well enough to make the Rams’ final roster. A spot in the Patriots’ organization, though, could change Sam forever, both as a person and player.
Obviously, the reason Sam is newsworthy is because of his personal life. He is a gay man in the NFL, and despite his talent, this is all anyone is really concerned with. Yesterday, I received notifications on my phone from CNN, ESPN and local Boston media outlets informing me of the breaking news: “First Openly Gay NFL Player Michael Sam Released by St. Louis Rams.” This wasn’t about a player being cut, it was about a gay player being cut.
In the football world, the dust has likely already settled and teams are surely looking at Sam already. The Patriots would be a great fit for two reasons: Bill Belichick has no qualms about taking on players with baggage, and the organization has a way of swallowing players up, never to be heard from again. And for many players, this will help their game. Tim Tebow was signed to the Patriots in the midst of his NFL celebrity tour, never to be heard of or cared about again during that time. This team is focused on winning, not all the politics that real life has to offer.
If Sam were to land in New England, you can be sure that Belichick would not allow the media circus that follows Sam to affect him any longer. Playing there would allow Sam to grow and forget about the reason people care about him so much — a reason that has nothing to do with football. He could get back to what this is all really about — playing in the NFL, a feat few men achieve. Sam should be proud he made it here in the first place. He now just needs the guidance necessary to succeed, something that Belichick and the Patriots can provide.