In Carl Nassib’s first meeting with the media covering the Tampa Bay Buccaneers training camp joint practice in Nashville last week, we learned that:
—He’s excited to play again next to outside linebacker and pass-rush extraordinaire Shaquil Barrett. “He’s an All-Pro guy ... and I’m pretty pumped.”
—He will wear No. 93 this season, after wearing No. 94 in his last stint with the Bucs in 2018 and 2019 and with the Las Vegas Raiders the last two seasons.
—He only negotiated his free agent deal with the Bucs a “couple days” before signing.
—He wasn’t surprised it took so long to be signed after being cut in the spring by the Raiders. “I was being selective and this was a great opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”
—He’ll play inside or outside on the defensive line and do whatever the Bucs want, even “getting snacks.”
—He hadn’t gotten the playbook yet. That didn’t stop Nassib from getting a tackle and an assist in Saturday night’s preseason game against Tennessee.
—He gushed when a reporter began his question by saying that it looked like he kept himself in great shape in the offseason. “Thank you, hell yeah, that’s a great way to start a question.”
It was more than three minutes into the 4:26 session before someone asked about his coming out as gay in June 2021, becoming the first active NFL player to do so and how this season was different.
“It’s a new year and I’m excited to be a football player again. I’m excited to go out there and show what I can do,” he said.
Nassib was asked about the response he’s gotten (“it’s been a blessing”) and what he thinks about people coming up to him and thanking him for coming out.
“That’s been the most rewarding thing about the last year, people coming up to me, telling me the positive impact that I’ve had,” he said. “It’s just really so rewarding and the reason why I did it. I think that everybody can continue to help be that positive person in anyone’s life to make the day a little bit better. I hope that I can be a little push in the positive direction.”
That was it for the gay angle. Two questions, two direct answers and done. I loved it.
Nassib being gay is still news at some level and his signing by Tampa last week was covered because he was a free agent and there was still a lingering question as to whether his sexual orientation was a reason he was unsigned.
But I found the Q&A session in Nashville heartening because it shows that once his big secret was out, there was not much more meat to chew on that bone a year later.
Nassib was in Tampa’s camp not as a diversity hire, but because the Bucs need defensive line help and his last stint with the team was a success. Nassib and coach Todd Bowles form a mutual admiration society, he knows a lot of the players and likes the area. Those are the same factors other free agent considers.
“We have a good relationship with him,” Bowles said of Nassib. “We thought he could still play. We thought he’d be great because he brings a lot of versatility to what we do, and he knows the system. So knowing the system, having the ability to still play and have a camaraderie with the guys was important for us.”
One of the goals of getting more athletes — especially men — to come out, is to show that after an initial flurry of attention, things will settle down, and a player will be judged on how he performs, not whom he sleeps with. Nassib is the living example of that.