90% of players with Sam's stats are on a team
Michael Sam had 11 tackles and three sacks in the NFL preseason. Yet that still hasn't been enough to get the openly gay defensive end a spot on an NFL roster headed into week 11.
When the 2014 NFL Draft was fast approaching, the names of several teams were thrown out there as ideal landing spots for Michael Sam, the Missouri defensive end who had recently come out publicly as gay. Two of those teams are playing in the Super Bowl this Sunday: The Seattle Seahawks and the New England Patriots.
The reason those two teams were part of the conversation were two big reasons.
First, the fanbase is deemed to be "accepting" of LGBT people, with same-sex marriage legal in both home states.
Second, and far more important, the leadership of the team is widely recognized as being welcoming and focused singularly on winning. "If you can play, you can play."
Seahawks defensive line coach Travis Jones agrees.
"We try to celebrate each other's differences, their background, their diversity," Jones said on Thursday in Phoenix. "When you feel like you can be you, you have the chance to be successful because you know these other guys will celebrate who you are. I don't see why we would not be ready for Michael or anybody else to be successful."
The Seahawks certainly have some of the biggest personalities in the sport, with Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman routinely making headlines for their comments and non-comments. The free-spirit atmosphere of the Seahawks was palpable at their Thursday Media Day with players and coaches particularly relaxed.
"The Legion of Boom? LOB? We've turned it into Love Our Brothers," Jones said. "We're all in this together. And when you're willing to sacrifice and do things for the guy next to you, and he's willing to do that for you, you have something special going on. You have a family."
Brendan Daly, the defensive line coach for the New England Patriots, had a similar message about teamwork and community.
"In my opinion I think in this team atmosphere, guys are interested in whatever is best for the team," Daly said. "If a guy can help us improve our situation, I think they would accept him with open arms. I really do. This is a team game. That's the beauty of this game."
Both men said they hadn't taken a look at Sam or his action on the tape since the NFL Draft in May. Daly said all personnel decisions are made by the front office, and that he's occasionally consulted on moves they are thinking about making; Sam never came up in those conversations during the season.
Daly did have some advice for Sam, who was cut by the St. Louis Rams in September, picked up by the Dallas Cowboys then cut by them in mid-October, and who is not currently with a team.
"The mental toughness to survive through that portion of a career is by far more important than how good of an athlete or a football player you are," Daly said. "It's not easy to get cut. It's not easy to bounce around, potentially week to week, from one team to another. It's not easy to be out of the game and still maximizing your preparation without a team to prepare with, so that once that opportunity comes you're loaded and ready to take advantage of it."