Missouri defensive end Michael Sam has come out to the world as a gay man. He would be the first openly gay player to suit up in the NFL if he can make a team. Most have supported Sam in his decision to make his sexuality public. It takes guts and courage to be a pioneer and that could resonate far more than the possible distractions he may cause. The Oakland Raiders will evaluate Sam as a football prospect, not as a gay man.
"The Oakland Raiders have long championed diversity and opportunity," Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie said in a team-issued release to ESPN. "The organization will evaluate Michael Sam based purely on his ability as a football player."
It is admirable that Sam put his sexual orientation out to teams before the NFL Combine and NFL Draft. It speaks to his character as an honest and confident person. It remains to be seen how, if at all, it will affect his NFL Draft prospects. He has the football ability to play in the league. He was the SEC co-defensive player of the year with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.
The Raiders especially under the late Al Davis were trailblazers in the NFL. They hired minority coaches and took chances on so called "red flag" players. Now general manager Reggie McKenzie runs the show. His philosophy is best players available with an advantage to high character guys. Sam fits that bill, but he is an under sized defensive end that doesn't fit the Raiders scheme. He is a bit of a tweener defensive linemen, outside linebacker because of his size. The Raiders have tried to mix in more multiple defense, but have stuck with a 4-3 scheme most of the last two seasons.
In today's NFL, rushing the passer is paramount to success. That would be a reason the Raiders could take a shot at Sam in the later rounds. He knows how to get after quarterbacks with pressure. The Raiders have three defensive linemen in Jason Hunter, Lamarr Houston, and Vance Walker all unrestricted free agents. They will need to bolster their defensive line so if Sam impresses McKenzie, he could be a possibility.
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