Michael Sam has to come to grips with the fact that, right now, the NFL doesn’t want him.
That’s all there is to it now. Is it fair? Maybe not. Are non-football factors at play? Maybe. It’s possible that if Sam — the NFL’s first openly-gay player — wasn’t such a lightning rod (through no fault of his own, really), an NFL team (or several of them) would be into him.
But the reality is that Sam was never a sure-thing on the field and he hasn’t been able to cut it on a pair of NFL rosters. On top of that, he performed poorly at the league’s inaugural veteran combine last month. He insists he wants to keep his NFL dream alive, but it does appear he has cold feet regarding joining the CFL.
“The indications were he was ready to come last fall, and he’s still not with us,” Montreal Alouettes general manager Jim Popp said recently. “So I really don’t know. Seriously, I’d say our chances are 50-50.”
I don’t know if this is where Sam’s head is at, but it does seem as though a lot of NFL hopefuls remain locked into this mindset that if you don’t make that league right away, you never will. Guys like Sam need look no further than Miami, where Cameron Wake is crushing it after two years with the BC Lions at the outset of his career, or Seattle, where Chris Matthews was a Super Bowl stud for the Seahawks after being found up north. Brandon Browner, Andrew Hawkins, Stefan Logan, Duron Carter, Jerrell Freeman, Delvin Breaux and Weston Dressler are also recent CFL-to-NFL converts.
As I mentioned here, the CFL-to-NFL pipeline is busier than ever. And it just so happens that Sam would be a perfect fit for Canadian football. The undersized linebacker would have a chance to excel in a more wide-open, speed-based game, and he wouldn’t face as many mismatches.
“The CFL is cut out perfectly for his style,” said Popp, whose team holds Sam’s CFL rights. “It would give him the opportunity to do what he does best. His agent knows. They’re ready. They know this may be what it is. It’s Michael who has to make the decision — and he might never come.”
Sam might eventually swallow his pride and move north. Hopefully by then, it’s not too late.
“If by, say, April, he hasn’t heard from an NFL team, he needs to sign with a CFL team,” former scout Russ Lande told Fox Sports in the fall. “A lot of guys don’t realize that until it’s too late. At some point, you’ve got to put something on film. You’re on the street for a reason. There’s some reason a team didn’t keep you. So you’ve got to prove it to them.”