ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — Michael Sam drew a large crowd of media following Tuesday’s training camp session at Rams Park, but it was just business as usual for the NFL’s most popular seventh-round pick.
Among the recent media to visit Earth City to chronicle Sam’s quest to become the first openly gay player in NFL history were Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times, William C. Rhoden of the New York Times and reporters from Sports Illustrated, ESPN, USA Today and TSN.
The Rams’ rookie defensive end was asked Tuesday if the assembled crowd of reporters helped him in some way, but he brushed away the question much like he did the queries in response to Tony Dungy last week.
“I could care less if the media is out here or not,” Sam said. “My goal is still to make this team. Whether I was a first-round pick or a free agent, my job is to make this team. So, whether you guys are out here or not, that’s my goal.”
Sam has remained steadfast in his focus on this.
Yes, there was the much-discussed documentary series with the Oprah network. But just a few days after that was announced, it quickly went away when it appeared to everyone involved that it would not to be in the rookie’s best interest in his attempt to make the Rams.
But Sam has handled everything thrown his way these last few months since he told the world he is gay with the same kind of aptitude he showed during his senior season when he earned All-American honors.
Sam was asked Tuesday if he wants to be a trailblazer.
His answer was succinct.
“I’m a football player,” Sam said.
A follow-up question was asked about at what point Sam thinks people will stop asking him those kind of questions.
“When I lay somebody out that first game,” he said.
We’re getting closer to the point of those types of questions no longer being asked. Since Sam was selected in the seventh-round of the draft on May 10, he’s spoken with reporters during a draft-day conference call, a nationally-televised press conference a few days later, once during OTAs, last week after rookies reported and again on Tuesday.
There may not be any new questions left to be asked.
Most of the questions on Tuesday focused on football, just like Sam.
Sam has showed in recent days of camp that he’s getting better. He’s lined up with the second-team defense and held his own while matched up against whatever offensive lineman standing in front of him.
“Everybody has their system and I’m learning the system,” he said. “I’m improving. I’m improving every day. That’s my goal so I can make this team.”
He said he’s also had some help from his veteran teammates.
“Chris (Long), Eugene (Sims), Robert (Quinn), they are all helping me,” Sam said. “They want me to make this team. They’re excited that I’m here. I couldn’t have gone to a better D-line.”
Sam also showed during Monday’s special teams practice that he can hold his own there, too, drawing practice afterward from Rams special teams coordinator John Fassel.
“This last drill, this competitive drill, he did a real good job as a blocker,” Fassel said. “I could see him being a real good guy on punt return and kickoff return as a blocker as we continue to groom him covering kicks, which requires long speed. Which is something that he’ll develop.”
Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Tuesday that what Sam needs to do to make this team is no different than the rest of the rookie class.
“They have to be competitive, they have to make plays, they have to improve throughout camp,” Fisher said. “You have to see them do things in preseason games.”
Sam said he’s not looking at the depth chart to gauge his chances of making the 53-man roster at the beginning of the regular season. He’s just focused on doing his job, learning and improving every day.
“All I’m thinking about is making this team,” he said. “I’m learning from the guys and I want to make this team. They’re teaching me a lot. I’m doing what they’re doing. They’ve been here for seven, eight years. I want to be that as well.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org and read more of his Rams coverage at GridironGateway.com.
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