MONTREAL (CBS St. Louis/AP) — The general manager of the Montreal Alouettes believes Michael Sam will come back to the team.

Sam – the first openly gay football player drafted by an NFL team – left the CFL’s Alouettes earlier this month for personal reasons. In an interview with The Guardian, GM Jim Popp says he will be surprised if Sam is not back.

“I think he needed a break,” Popp told The Guardian. “That’s my personal belief. I think it was just overwhelming to some degree, and he needs to clear his mind, clear his head. Do I think he wants to play? Do I think he wants to be on the field? Do I think he wants to be Michael Sam the football player? I 100 percent believe that. Yes.”

Popp believes that many NFL teams are still interested in Sam, telling The Guardian that several teams reached out to him about why Sam left.

“They wouldn’t be calling if they weren’t interested,” he said. “They were monitoring him to see how he did here. There’s a lot of people who want to see Michael Sam play, and they are going to tune in to see him play.”

The Alouettes general manager suspects the attention Sam was receiving overwhelmed him.

“I don’t think he thought of it [as groundbreaking] when he came out,” Popp told The Guardian. “When he does actually say it – you have to remember this – he’s already established, he’s the leader of the team, the star defensive player, and everybody’s already his buddies and friends and they already know a lot of [it]. So everything was great. Now when you’re starting a pro career and that story is out, now you’re every other rookie that comes in to a professional camp.

“It’s not easy, it’s a tough go to try and break through. There’s a limited percentage of people in the world who ever get that job, and it’s just tough. I’m sure that with the additional pressure of being the first openly gay player and all the attention that comes with that, it’s even tougher.”

Sam’s departure came three weeks after he became the first openly gay player to sign in the CFL.

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.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)


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