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Rams cut Michael Sam, first openly gay player drafted

St. Louis Rams rookie defensive end Michael Sam

St. Louis Rams rookie defensive end Michael Sam takes part in an organized team activity at the team's practice facility on Thursday, June 5, 2014, in St. Louis. Credit: AP / Jeff Roberson

Michael Sam's dream of becoming the first openly gay player to participate in an NFL regular-season game is on hold for now.

Sam was released by the St. Louis Rams on Saturday. The seventh-round pick was the first openly gay player to be drafted by an NFL team.

"He kept his head down and worked, and you can't ask for anything more out of any player, for that matter," Rams coach Jeff Fisher said.

Sam, a former star pass rusher for Missouri, attended the Tigers' opener on Saturday in Columbia, Missouri, and was not immediately available for comment. He said on his Twitter account that he looks forward to continuing his NFL career.

"I want to thank the entire Rams organization and the city of St. Louis for giving me this tremendous opportunity and allowing me to show I can play at this level," Sam tweeted. "I look forward to continuing to build on the progress I made here toward a long and successful career."

Sam could be signed to the Rams' practice squad or be claimed on waivers by another team. If he is claimed, Sam would be on that team's active roster, meaning he would be available to play regular season games. Practice-squad players aren't eligible to play unless they clear waivers before being activated for a game.

Sam, the SEC co-defensive player of the year in 2013, was selected with the 249th pick in May. Fisher called Sam's selection "a second historic moment" for the franchise, which also signed running back Kenny Washington in 1946 as the NFL's first African-American player in the modern era.

But Sam wasn't drafted simply to make history; the Rams believed he could compete for a roster spot, even though they were well-stocked at defensive end. Sam had a solid preseason with three sacks and 11 tackles.

After his first preseason game, Sam was encouraged about his chances.

"You know, I can play in this league," he said.

Fisher said at a news conference on Saturday that Sam could be back on the Rams' practice squad but that the team won't stand in Sam's way if another team claims him.

"Mike's got ability. Mike played well," Fisher said. "He has the ability to play someplace. It's gotta be the right place, it's gotta be a fit. As someone told me years ago, the difference between a good player and an average player in this league is just snaps, it's reps. He's a much better player now than he was when he got here."

Fisher said he told Sam of the decision Saturday afternoon.

"He said, 'Yes, sir . . . I understand,' " Fisher said. "He said, 'Thanks for the opportunity' and I said, 'Michael, I'm looking forward to visiting with you tomorrow.' He goes, 'I am, too.' That's really all that was said."

Fisher said he was rooting for Sam and that the rookie "did everything we asked him to do." Sam led the Rams with six tackles in Thursday night's preseason finale against the Dolphins. He was beaten out for the final defensive end spot by undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks.

Saints cut Champ BaileyThe New Orleans Saints included 12-time Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey among their final preseason roster cuts. The Saints brought in Bailey after he was released by Denver and general manager Mickey Loomis said Bailey was expected to compete for a starting cornerback job. But Bailey struggled with a foot injury and saw limited action in only the final two preseason games. -- AP


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