Michael Sam became one of the hottest stories of the NFL Draft. The first openly gay NFL draftee was a huge story, mainly because of his sexual preference. In spite of a huge number of stories devoted to him since the Draft, he is no fading quickly, as seen in this statement from the St. Louis Rams, in which he gets the slightest of mention. Here is that statement.
With the final preseason game and roster reductions in the books, there was plenty for head coach Jeff Fisher to discuss in his Saturday press conference at Rams Park. Here are some of the highlights.
“As I told our team yesterday after we had made most of the moves, unfortunately we let go of some really good teammates, some good friends,” Fisher said. “As I mentioned to the guys in the room yesterday, some may be coming back — you may see them Sunday on the practice squad — and some you may never, ever see again. But these are two very difficult days for us.”
In order to reach the 53-player limit, the Rams placed wide receiver Stedman Bailey on the reserve/suspended list, and waived 21 players. Below are the players St. Louis waived on Friday and Saturday.
WR Emory Blake
G Travis Bond
DE Kourtnei Brown
S Christian Bryant
DT Matt Conrath
S Avery Cunningham
WR Austin Franklin
QB Garrett Gilbert
DT Deantre Harlan
LB Aaron Hill
T Sean Hooey
DB Greg Reid
LB Etienne Sabino
DE Michael Sam
TE Brad Smelley
LB Phillip Steward
T Mitchell Van Dyk
WR Justin Veltung
OL Brandon Washington
LB Lawrence Wilson
CB Darren Woodard
…As Fisher noted, that list means that a sixth-round pick, and none the team’s four seventh-round picks made the Rams’ 53-man roster. Gilbert, a sixth-round pick, Bryant, Sam, and Van Dyk were all waived, while center Demetrius Rhaney was placed on injured reserve last week.
“We made football decisions with respect to our draft choices, with respect to our undrafted free agents,” Fisher said. “And when you look at the big picture, that implies that we’re getting better. This team is getting better because we’re releasing draft choices.”
…The four undrafted free agents who made the initial 53-man roster are running back Trey Watts, tight end Alex Bayer, cornerbackMarcus Roberson, and defensive linemanEthan Westbrooks. All four rookies had an exceptional preseason in order to make the team.
Bayer, for example, led the Rams in receptions with 10 and was second in yards receiving with 135. Watts was second on the team in yards rushing with 106, to go along with a rushing touchdown.
Roberson was one of the team’s preseason leaders in tackles, consistently making plays around the ball. Fisher called him a good football player who picked up the defense well.
“He’s got ball skills,” the head coach said. “You can’t have enough corners on your roster. And, of course, to be in a position where we’re going to be without Trumaine [Johnson] certainly didn’t hurt his cause as well.”
And at defensive line, Westbrooks also had a terrific four games. Just on Thursday night in Miami, he tallied a sack, a tackle for loss, and two quarterback hits, according to the press box statistics.
“He was very, very productive in the preseason for us and played all four spots [on the defensive line],” Fisher said of Westbrooks. “He’s a very, very talented young player that I think has a really good future.”
…Of course, one name that did not make the 53-man squad was Michael Sam. Fisher said that every decision the team made regarding the defensive end has been about football, whether it was waiving him Saturday or drafting him back in May.
“I will tell you this, I was pulling for Mike — I really was,” Fisher said. “And I don’t say that often, but I was.
“When we drafted Mike, we mentioned that it’s going to be a tough road,” Fisher added. “Those four defensive ends that we have on the roster are good. They play a lot and are very productive, as well as the tackles. That’s the strength of our football team. But, again, it was a football decision.”
The head coach said that the choice not only had to do with Sam competing with Westbrooks, but also a matter of the team’s amount of defensive linemen. Fisher said a nine-man unit was a significant number, especially for a team that utilizes a four-man front.
“Nine is a number that we looked at to start the season,” Fisher said. “If you go with 10, then you’re going to be short someplace else, and we’re just not there.”
…As for the quarterbacks, waiving Gilbert leaves just two on the active roster — Shaun Hill andAustin Davis. Fisher said he’s not concerned about having only two signal-callers, as the team has gone into most games with that number.
“The quarterback position is a position that we’re going to address, that we’re going to monitor,” Fisher said. “I’m sure there will be workouts and tryouts, and potential to do some things at the position. But right now, as I said a couple of days ago, we’re not going to overreact. We’re going to apply patience to the situation.”
…Finally, Fisher said that in general, he’s feeling really good about the upcoming season.
“We’re ready to play,” he said. “We’ve got guys on the field who should be healthy going into the season, and guys are excited. We’ve got a young team once again, but we’ve got a team that has a great deal of confidence in itself — and our starting quarterback as well.”