Near the end of Michael Sam’s press conference at the NFL Scouting Combine, the defender from Missouri had a request for the public.
He wants the focus on football.
“I just wish you guys would just see me as Michael Sam the football player instead of Michael Sam the gay football player,” he said.
Sam is in the position to become the first openly gay player in NFL history, and almost all of the attention on him has focused on his sexuality rather than his football acumen.
So how would Sam fit with the Ravens on the football field?
“Any player that has the qualities to be a great player and a good teammate, is a guy that fits us,” Head Coach John Harbaugh said at the combine when asked about Sam. “We’re really good at helping players, any player, become a part of our team.”
Sam has mostly been described by draft analysts as a “tweener.” At 6-foot-2, 261 pounds, Sam lacks the size to play defensive end in most schemes. He is built more like an outside linebacker, but he doesn’t have the same speed as edge rushers. Sam officially clocked his 40-yard dash in 4.91 seconds.
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock described Sam as a “situational pass rusher and core special teamer,” and expects that he will get drafted somewhere between the fourth to sixth rounds.
Sam stressed that whatever system he ends up in, he has the ability to get after quarterbacks.
“I’m a pass rusher,” he said. “If you put me in a situation to get the quarterback, I’m going to get the quarterback. Whoever coaches or GMs, this league is a passing league, I’d like to believe in myself as a good pass rusher.”
Sam thrived last season at Missouri and led the SEC with 11.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. He was the Defensive Player of the Year for the SEC, the premier college football conference in the country.
His production tapered off in the second half of the year, and he faced questions for why he registered just 1.5 sacks in the final six games.
“Winning is hard, buddy,” Sam responded. “Winning is hard. There’s going to be games when I might not get a sack. Throughout the games I did have some inconsistency there, but for the most part we as a defensive line did put a lot of pressure on quarterbacks, made them uncomfortable in the pocket to have to go and run away or throw the ball out of bounds.”
Sam could be a fit for the Ravens in the later rounds, as General Manager Ozzie Newsome has said on a number of a occasions that he can never have enough pass rushers. He projects as an outside linebacker in the Ravens defense, which is currently a crowded position.
The Ravens already have
If the Ravens are interested in adding another pass rusher and Sam is available in the later rounds, Newsome and Harbaugh both stated that they have no concerns about how he would fit in Ravens’ locker room.
“Once he gets in and he can rush the quarterback and get the quarterback on the ground and make tackles, he's going to be a good teammate,” Newsome said. “The biggest thing is how the media is going to deal with him.”