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Michael Sam turning heads as special teams player

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Michael Sam has dropped 15 pounds and worked on special-teams skills, which has Rams coordinator John Fassel interested in the openly gay NFL rookie.

Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Michael Sam's odds of making the St. Louis Rams roster, given the existing depth on the defensive line, will likely hinge on his ability to contribute in the special teams aspect of the game. Rams special teams coordinator John Fassel gave a glimpse into Sam's special-teams potential yesterday when he answered questions about the rookie's cutting of weight over the last two months and the work he's put into the craft.

Fassel answered:

I think he's dropped probably about 15 pounds, and you can tell the difference running like we did today, 30 to 50 to 70 yards, that's helped him a lot. At the end of the last drill, a competitive drill, he did a really good job as a blocker. I can see him being a good guy on punt return and kickoff return as a blocker, as we continue to groom him covering kicks, which requires long speed, which is something he'll develop.

Part of the concern for some analysts discussing Sam's future on special teams has been his size and speed, so cutting even 15 pounds can help with that. What that loss of weight does for his immediate future on the defensive line: Already slightly under the average size of NFL defensive ends, 15 more pounds off can show up tangibly on the field.

Sam will take the field with the Rams for the first time in a preseason game next Friday, Aug. 8, at home agains the New Orleans Saints. We'll get an idea of how he stacks up in special teams, and likely against second- and third-string Saints offensive lineman, in that game.