MONTREAL (CBS St. Louis/AP) — Michael Sam has left the Montreal Alouettes training camp for personal reasons.
The CFL team said the rookie defensive end has been given special permission to return home to Texas.
“With all due respect for Michael Sam, the nature of this decision will remain confidential,” said a team statement. “The Montreal Alouettes fully respect Michael Sam’s decision and rally around him to offer him all time and support needed. The team has left the door open and Michael is welcome to come back whenever he feels ready.”
Alouettes general manager Jim Popp told the Montreal Gazette that he was surprised Sam left.
“There’s nothing to tell you. He wanted to go home, and that’s what he did. I don’t know why. When a guy wants to go home, they go home. He had some personal things to take care of,” Popp said.
He continued, “I wouldn’t be surprised if he returns. I’m surprised he left. I was very surprised. If he doesn’t come back, I would think football’s over for him. He’s the one that has to face that. But I don’t think he doesn’t want to play football. That’s why he came here.”
One source told the Montreal Gazette that Sam might have overreacted to a comment made by another player.
“All I know is I heard somebody made a comment about him, about how he wasn’t very good and wasn’t having a very good camp. He took it personally and was pouting in his room,” the source told the Montreal Gazette. “It’s very strange. I have no idea what’s going on. He might have a personal issue.”
Sam’s departure comes three weeks after he became the first openly gay player to sign in the CFL. Montreal plays its first preseason game Saturday night in Quebec City.
Sam tweeted last month that he couldn’t wait to bring the Grey Cup to Montreal.
The 25-year-old Sam was selected in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft by the St. Louis Rams, becoming the first openly gay player chosen by an NFL team. He was later cut by the Rams and from the Dallas Cowboys’ practice roster.
He is part of a tiny group of professional athletes who have chosen to go public about their sexual orientation. Retired NBA player Jason Collins came out in April 2013, while Los Angeles Galaxy soccer star Robbie Rogers is the lone player to do so in Major League Soccer.
A star at Missouri, Sam earned SEC Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2013 before turning pro.
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