Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

A closeted gay player in the NFL is considering coming out publicly, sources tell CBS NFL writer Mike Freeman. Here are the key paragraphs in Freeman’s piece:

Based on interviews over the past several weeks with current and former players, I’m told that a current gay NFL player is strongly considering coming out publicly within the next few months — and after doing so, the player would attempt to continue his career.

I’m told this player feels the time is now for someone to take this step — despite homophobic remarks from San Francisco 49ers defensive back Chris Culliver and the controversy arising recently at the Indianapolis Scouting combine, when prospects were asked questions about their sexuality.

This player’s true concern, I’m told, is not the reaction inside an NFL locker room but outside of it. The player fears he will suffer serious harm from homophobic fans, and that is the only thing preventing him from coming out. My sources will not say who this alleged player is.

This is right now a rumor based on anonymous sources and Freeman does not know who this player is. What gives him credibility, though, is that 10 years ago he wrote a chapter in a book quoting a closeted NFL player. He also has written about the subject of gays in the NFL for years and was on a panel with Outsports to debate the pros and cons of a player coming out. So this is a subject he pays attention to, and I strongly doubt he is just making this up. That said, we have had these rumors crop up in various sports and they always wind up being false alarms.

I am surprised that this player fears fan reaction the most. There are always morons at sporting events, but my feeling is that any fan that is overtly homophobic will be shouted down not only by opposing fans but by those of his team who won’t like that kind of language being tossed around.

Assuming this player is correct that his team would accept him, I think the bigger obstacle might be the intense media scrutiny. This player will be labeled the “gay Jackie Robinson” (as flawed as that analogy is) and have to be able to focus while being asked for interviews and to do appearances for every LGBT group under the sun. Coming out in the off-season would be the right time to do it and allow the player to let the attention die down somewhat by the time the season starts.