Michael Sam, the first openly gay player to be drafted by the NFL, is expected to sign with the Cowboys' practice squad Wednesday, four days after the Rams released him.

Sam, a Cowboys fan while growing up in Hitchcock, Texas, joins a team that can use his talents at defensive end. The Cowboys' defense was among the NFL's worst last season, and lost pass rusher DeMarcus Ware to the Broncos as a free agent.

advertisement | advertise on newsday

Despite speculation that Sam might not be signed because teams would be concerned about potential distractions because of his sexual orientation, the Cowboys reportedly are ready to add him to the practice squad.

Sam wouldn't be eligible to play in regular-season games unless he were signed to Dallas' 53-man roster. If on the practice squad, he also could sign with any team's active roster. The season begins Thursday night when the Seahawks play the Packers.

"Michael has a real opportunity to play in a regular-season game soon, because the Cowboys' defense isn't particularly strong,'' said Cyd Ziegler, co-founder of Outsports Magazine, whose Facebook site calls it "the world's leading gay-sports publication.'' Ziegler confirmed Sam's imminent signing with the Cowboys, who had no comment.

"I don't want to talk about available players,'' Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones said Tuesday morning on Dallas radio station KRLD when asked about the possibility of signing Sam.

"Culturally, I called this an earthquake,'' Ziegler said. "The gay community holds up Texas as a bastion of homophobia. So for the Dallas Cowboys . . . to ignore Michael Sam's sexual orientation and the potential reaction from some Cowboys fans is culturally historical.''