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LATSCH: Sam Makes a Statement, Now Has to Wait for Roster Decision

Nate Latsch / KMOX.com
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Defensive end Michael Sam #96 of the St. Louis Rams tries to elude Nate Garner #75 of the Miami Dolphins in the second quarter at Sun Life Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

Defensive end Michael Sam #96 of the St. Louis Rams tries to elude Nate Garner #75 of the Miami Dolphins in the second quarter at Sun Life Stadium on August 28, 2014 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)

ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — Michael Sam feels like he has proven that he can play in the NFL. But now the league’s first openly gay player must wait to find out if he will get that opportunity with the Rams this season.

“I’m very confident that I’ll be playing on an NFL roster this fall,” Sam told reporters following Thursday’s final preseason game in Miami. “I made some big plays in games and in practice I improved every week and I know I can play in this league.”

A unanimous All-American and the co-defensive player of the year in the Southeastern Conference while at Mizzou last season, Sam is among the players on the bubble as the Rams have to trim their roster from 75 players to 53 by the league’s mandated 3 p.m. CT Saturday deadline.

“We’ll have to let some guys go that played well for us,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher told reporters Thursday night regarding the upcoming roster cuts. “We’ll get together and … you know, this is the hard part about the National Football League right now. In the next couple of days we’ll start reducing the roster to 53. So we’ll have some discussions and go from there.”

Whether the Rams’ seventh-round pick makes the team will likely come down to number crunching at other positions and if the Rams decide to keep 10 defensive linemen on their final 53.

St. Louis went into training camp with eight defensive linemen with their spots already solidified on the roster in Robert Quinn, Chris Long, Michael Brockers, Kendall Langford, William Hayes, Eugene Sims, Alex Carrington and first-round pick Aaron Donald.

Sam and undrafted rookie defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks, the former Division II defensive player of the year at West Texas A&M, have both been impressive throughout training camp and the four preseason games.

Westbrooks has shown the versatility to play defensive end as well as defensive tackle and make an impact at either position. He was also, through the first three preseason games, rated by ProFootballFocus.com as the top 4-3 defensive end in the NFL.

“Let the chips fall where they may,” Westbrooks told The Post-Dispatch following Thursday’s game. “Everything’s in the books right now, so I’m definitely comfortable with what I did this preseason. I’m proud of what I’ve done. So I just wait for the next two days.”

Sam and Westbrooks should both be proud of what they’ve done.

Seventh-round picks and undrafted rookies both face long odds of making NFL rosters, but both of the Rams rookies have shown enough potential and production that they should be on 53-man regular season rosters this fall — in St. Louis or elsewhere.

Westbrooks had 12 tackles and two sacks in four preseason games.

Sam had 11 tackles and a team-high three sacks. He had two against Johnny Manziel and the Cleveland Browns in the third preseason game.

The rookie from Missouri has been good this preseason, but it still may not be enough for him to earn a spot with St. Louis.

Sam tweeted before the preseason finale in Miami on Thursday that it was “time to make a statement!” He’s done just that this preseason. He’s proven he can play in the NFL.

Now he just has to wait to see where he’ll play in the NFL.

Nate Latsch has been covering sports in St. Louis for more than a decade, working for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports, STLhighschoolsports.com, Scout.com and other newspapers and websites. You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch, email him at natelatsch@gmail.com and read more of his Rams coverage at GridironGateway.com.

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