Michael Sam, Peter King, and the NFL’s Cowardice

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Peter King is just the worst. He’s a classic example of a writer selling his journalistic integrity for access and “inside” info, all for the price of carrying the National Football League’s water and holding then up as a shining beacon, and not a corporate black hole more concerned with profit than the game itself.

That said, if you can wade through the 3 million word, stream of consciousness bull poop that is “The MMQB” (King either has never heard that brevity is the soul of wit, or just doesn’t care)  you’ll find an interesting tidbit about former Rams defensive end Michael Sam

Let’s breakdown just how lame this all is, shall we?

1.) Everyone knew it would be hard for Michael Sam to crack the 53 man roster in St. Louis. That he got cut isn’t the surprising part; that he didn’t make it on the practice squad is.

It’d be hard for a 7th round defensive end who doesn’t play special teams to crack any team; for the Rams, who have one of the deepest d-lines in football, it was an uphill climb.

But Sam proved he can pay football. Granted, it was against some guys who don’t have jobs at the moment. But you could see why the guy led the SEC in sacks. He slimmed down from 270 to 255, giving him an extra burst if quickness and that made the difference.

In 77 pass rush attempts, Sam totaled 3 sacks, four hurries, and two QB hits. Only his former teammate Ethan Westbrooks had a better statline for the Rams. That, at the very least, should be enough to get on the Rams practice squad, or any practice squad. And yet Sam remains jobless, because…reasons?

2.) King subtly tried to pin the fact that Sam isn’t on a practice squad on ESPN and the media circus surrounding Sam. Quoting three “team architects” (what does that even mean?), King points out ESPN’s embarrassing shower habits “report” as an example. King then back tracks, saying Sam hasn’t been a distraction, while putting out vaguely worded, unsourced info about why Sam isn’t on a team.

That Sam could be a “distraction”, (I.e the NFL’s catch all term for stuff the league rather not acknowledge exists) is entirely left up to the team that would sign him. Sam hasn’t been a distraction at all this off-season, he’s put in work on the field, and his sexuality hasn’t been an issue. Why would any NFL team be scared of a distraction that doesn’t exist?

3.) Herein lies the NFL’s problem, and why so many teams fail to improve year in and year out. If you look at a developmental player who was SEC Defensive Player of the Year, who dropped to a solid playing weight, and out-performed his draft position, and you decide not to offer him a spot on your practice squad because you’re scared of ESPN coverage, congrats, you deserve to lose.

The NFL has warped into a business in which risk taking isn’t worth it. No one wants a Tim Tebow situation, while also not recognizing what made the Tebow Time stuff so bad wasn’t just ESPN going balls to the walls with their coverage, but also with the Broncos and the Jets inability to control their own messaging. They fed the beast, allowing the narrative to consume them, rather than trying to stem the tide.

Sam’s sexual orientation is important in a cultural sense, no matter how many people claim it shouldn’t be. The first openly gay player in the NFL should have some level of notoriety and recognition. It matters.

But in a football sense? Sam isn’t the first gay player in the NFL period. There are gay players practicing right now. A solid player is a solid player regardless of their sexual preference. If Sam really is being black balled because of his sexual orientation, than the NFL really is incapable of broadening its horizons and seeing the bigger picture.

TL;DR version: if you’re a “team architect” who is scared of ESPN and news coverage, you suck at your job.

The league will find a way to stand behind any player they deem worthy. Ray Rice got more support from his team than Sam is right now. Rice trends on Twitter now even when he’s not involved in a suspension, and somehow he’s not a distraction.

Leave it to the NFL to suggest hitting your wife is better than being gay.

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