In opting to sign with the CFL's Alouettes, Michael Sam said his focus is on football and not breaking barriers as an openly gay player. Will it lead him back to the NFL? Plus, answering your questions on Deflategate and workout injuries
Knew this was coming. I apologized in advance for the inevitable: when it comes to writing the behemoth that is Monday Morning Quarterback, I was bound to forget something. And I did. I completely whiffed on Michael Sam signing a two-year contract with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL. Considering The MMQB was the home of Canada Week last year, it basically was a cardinal sin.
Sam was introduced to the Montreal media Tuesday, the same day players were taking their physicals for training camp, which starts today up there.
One of the first questions was about whether or not Sam realized that Jackie Robinson started his professional baseball career with the Montreal Royals. In fact, Robinson broke the color barrier in professional baseball (the Major League color barrier would come later) playing for Montreal in Jersey City, N.J.
Sam didn’t want to compare his situation, as the first openly gay professional football player, to that of Robinson.
“I’m just here to play football,” Sam said. “I’m not trying to do anything historic, just trying to help the team win games.”
I get why Sam is trying to take the focus off himself, but the comparison is apt. If Sam makes the Alouettes, he would be become the first openly gay CFL player to play in a regular-season game. And, like Robinson, Sam will have to succeed with Montreal if he is to get another opportunity to break the sexuality barrier in the NFL.
The big question is, will Sam get another chance?
I studied Sam after he came out to see exactly what kind of NFL draft prospect he was. My evaluation: “Sam would project to be no better than a mid- to late-round pick. He could go undrafted. To my eyes Sam is decidedly average, with nothing exceptional about his game—though he will be helped by the fact that this draft is not deep with pass rushers, and those are always needed.”
So I was not surprised that Sam lasted until the seventh round of the 2014 draft, when he was taken by the Rams. In my opinion, Sam’s draft position was right in line with what he showed on film. It didn’t have anything to do with his sexual orientation. Sam was a slow, middling pass rusher who didn’t set the edge well in the run game either.
But in his preseason appearances with the Rams, it was obvious to me that Sam had improved, especially with his speed off the line. Couple that with his knack for finding the ball (he led the SEC with 11.5 quarterback sacks and 19 tackles for a loss in ’13), and I thought Sam had shown enough to earn a place on a team’s practice squad. The Cowboys signed him, but he was released in October. That was Sam’s last time with an NFL team, which led him to the Alouettes.
Sam said his sexuality was not a problem during his time in the NFL.
“When I went to the NFL and that locker room, they didn’t see me as a gay football player, they saw me as a rookie, and they treated me like a rookie,” said Sam, who admitted his 40-yard time of 5.07 seconds at the NFL’s veteran combine was “pretty bad.”
Now that Sam will get a legitimate shot in the CFL (not saying he didn’t get one in the NFL, but now there will be no doubt), it’s up to him. He has to show speed and he has to be productive. Cameron Wake tallied 39 sacks and was named the league’s most outstanding defensive player in two seasons with the B.C. Lions from 2007-08 before getting a chance to be a star in the NFL with the Dolphins. If Sam can approach that kind of production, he’ll get another shot at the NFL.
“I have no regrets whatsoever,” Sam said. “I’m happy with what I’ve done over the past year. I’ve helped so many people, given them so much inspiration. So I have no regrets.
“All I know is I’m here now. (Playing in the CFL) means I only have two downs to sack the quarterback.”
Onto your questions:
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SCIENCE AND FOOTBALL. Your attempt at a scientific analysis of Deflategate was very incomplete. Please keep in mind that over the course of half-time, according to Exponent, the Colts balls will rise .6 PSI (or almost 5% of their pressure), and we know they were measured at the very end of halftime when they ran out of time. Not to mention, Exponent forgot to incorporate the effects of evaporative cooling on the footballs. Had they, it could have also helped the Patriots cause and explained the gap in pressure drop between the two sets of balls measured at two different times. You and Peter both should leave the science to scientists. Dangerous things happen otherwise! You should really update your column to remove that section.
Yeah, I won’t be doing that. The point of putting in that section was to show that the whole “science” part of this is ridiculous, on both sides. How do you know when the NFL actually got around to testing the Patriots’ balls? What about the balls that were tested at the end, right before the Colts’ balls. You and whoever else can mock Exponent if you want, but the fact remains Dr. Daniel R. Marlow, a decorated physics scholar from Princeton, signed off on the science portion of the report. So you can’t just toss it out.
The bottom line is, we’re talking about football. This isn’t a capital murder case. We’re not deciphering some complicated math proof. It’s football. The NFL itself (signed off by all the owners) lowered the bar on competitive rules violations because they shouldn’t need guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. I agree with them. If you don’t want to get busted, then stay clear of the gray line. Don’t go into the bathroom with the footballs and then lie repeatedly about it. Don’t text about pumping up footballs when your gameday duties shouldn’t ever involve the handling of footballs. Don’t call yourself the deflator, or joke about going to ESPN. And don’t decide you’re not going to fully cooperate, or withhold witnesses. Do everything by the letter, then you can tee up the science and take it for a ride, if you want. Be my guest. Until then, you have to deal with more than just the appearance of impropriety.
EXPECT BRADY TO FIGHT. You have to be kidding me trying to compare Robert Kraft's position to that of Tom Brady's. Kraft had many reasons to stand down but not Brady. As a team owner in the most successful sports league in the country, Kraft has billions of reasons to acquiesce and little legal recourse even if he did want to fight. For Brady this isn't about four games or money; this is about his entire legacy. No doubt Brady is angry, and just like he's ultra competitive on the field, I'm sure he'll fight this battle to the very end with all of the means at his disposal. How great would it be if Roger Goodell offers a reduced penalty and Brady tells them to take a hike while he fights for full vindication.
—Michael C., Harrison, N.Y.
It wasn’t a comparison between Kraft and Brady. I think it’s apparent to everyone that they are two distinctly different situations, especially in terms of recourse. But I think you’re fooling yourself if you don’t think his own legacy was chief among Kraft’s reasoning for not taking it further.
Also, I do not share your optimism that Brady will take this all the way to the end, especially once the games start. Maybe he will. I might believe that more if Brady ever states his unequivocal innocence, something he didn’t even do during his press conference, interview with Bob Costas before the Super Bowl, and last public appearance at Salem State. If I was completely innocent, I would say it at least once, clearly, for the record.
WEIGHT ROOM INJURIES. Why doesn’t anyone ever look into what happened when a player suffers an injury in the weight room? Will Beatty is out until October and that's all we get? Has weight room training for some teams changed in the past 30 years?
Couple thoughts on that. For one, plenty of injuries happen in the weight room and/or preseason training. And we’ve seen more and more pectoral injuries in recent years, be it in the weight room or on the field. So it didn’t strike me as a shock. There are a variety of reasons for it (performance enhancing drugs, guys getting too big, not enough stretching, just plain bad luck), but maybe it could be looked into more.
And in case you're hinting at potential neglect on behalf of the Giants, Beatty is ably represented by the NFLPA and veteran agents Alan Herman and Jared Fox of Sportstars agency. If something was amiss, they would be on it. There are avenues of recourse.
P.S. Thanks for all the great Toronto tips. Looking forward to the trek. It was brought to my attention that the Women’s World Cup will be going on, so we might alter our plans. Too bad we’re just missing the Pan Am Games. Boy, Canada is busy, eh?
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