TEMPE, Ariz. - The most high-profile player in the NFL to have never played a snap in the league was on the field Sunday trying to rectify that.
Michael Sam, who last year was the first openly gay player to be drafted (by the Rams in the seventh round) and who now is a contestant on "Dancing With the Stars,'' was one of 105 who participated in the NFL's Veteran Combine at the Cardinals' facility. It was the first event of its kind.
Despite his celebrity, Sam insisted his focus is on football and not fox trots. Asked if he is thinking about moving on from football for other pursuits, he said: "Absolutely not.''
"I'm young, and clearly I didn't play last year, but I'm still good,'' Sam said. "I don't have any injuries. I'm good to play . . . As long as I have that will, as long as I'm still healthy and can play this game, you will continue to see me fighting to get in this league.''
Asked directly if he thinks his involvement in "Dancing With the Stars" is scaring teams away, he briskly replied: "Next question.''
Sam spent the 2014 preseason with the Rams and half of the regular season on the Cowboys' practice squad before his contract was terminated. He has not had a workout for an NFL team since then.
"It's a business decision,'' he said. "It was late October when I got released from the Cowboys. At that point, the season only lasts what, four or five more weeks? Maybe five or six? So I'm not surprised. A little bit, maybe, but that's it.''
Sam said he thinks he is a better player than he was at last year's college scouting Combine, when he was the reigning Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year out of Missouri. He looked quick in drills on the field, but his unofficial time in the 40-yard dash was 5.07 seconds, worse than the 4.91 he posted in Indianapolis last year, which gave teams pause.
One area Sam said he has improved is his technique.
"I learned from the guys,'' he said. "I learned from the vets. Chris Long, Robert Quinn and some of the guys at the Cowboys. Those guys taught me a lot. I used that today, and hopefully when I get back on another team, I can use what they taught me to better my career.''
And now he waits. For a phone call or some interest from a team. Any team. Any country, in fact. Sam said he would not rule out playing in the Canadian Football League this season if that could be a potential path to the NFL.
"I am very confident that I will be playing football this year somewhere,'' he said. "I did the best I can [Sunday]. I did just as good if not better than the other guys here, so I'm pretty confident about that.''
Notes & quotes: Former Giant Da'Rel Scott posted the fastest 40 time among running backs, an unofficial 4.31 . . . For many, the Veteran Combine might as well be called the Last Chance Saloon. Former Raiders and Bears running back Michael Bush clocked an unofficial 4.91 in the 40. When told of his time, Bush was disbelieving, then disappointed. "There goes my career,'' he said . . . Almost 100 scouts and executives attended, including Giants general manager Jerry Reese and director of pro personnel Ken Sternfeld.