Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones told a Dallas radio station Friday that the team valued Michael Sam's contributions as a practice squad player but that it needed to devote the roster spot to a different position.
The Cowboys have carried 15 defensive linemen at different points this season, and Jones said that was too many for the position, especially with several linemen set to return from inaction in the coming weeks.
“Michael was an outstanding look in practice in that he was very active and worked very, very hard,” Jones said on 105.3 The Fan [KRLD-FM]. “On the other hand, we actually had as many as 15 defensive linemen. Normally at most you might be dealing with 10 or 11, so we had long numbers at the defensive linemen and of course that’s what Michael Sam is.
“It was just a question of we saw that we had guys coming back like we’ve had this week, of course, [DeMarcus] Lawrence is practicing. We’ve got two or three others who are taking snaps. On the come here, you got Josh Brent. All that happening, we just have to have a spot and that was the best thing for the team relative to all of the other things that a practice squad player does.”
Lawrence, a rookie defensive end, broke his foot in July and is eligible to return from injured reserve/designated for return on Nov. 2. Brent was suspended 10 games before this season for his conviction for intoxication manslaughter from a December 2012 car accident that killed teammate Jerry Brown. He's eligible to return for the Cowboys' game against the New York Giants on Nov. 23.
The Cowboys waived Sam from their practice squad on Tuesday after signing him the week before the regular season started. He never made it to the active roster. The team signed linebacker Troy Davis to the practice squad to replace Sam.
Sam became the first openly gay player drafted by an NFL team when the St. Louis Rams selected him in the seventh round. They kept Sam on their roster through the end of training camp until releasing him in the final round of roster cuts.
The Cowboys signed Sam several days later. At the time of Sam's signing, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Sam "had a long way to go" as a player while dismissing concerns that the rookie could be a potential distraction in the locker room due to his sexuality, echoing the sentiments of Rams coach Jeff Fisher from when Sam was with St. Louis. Jones said earlier this week that Sam's sexuality was a "dead issue" among his teammates.
Sam is now free to sign with any NFL team or join any other team's practice squad.
- Ben Estes