As the National Football League tries to tackle bullying in the locker room, one of America's top football analysts said a NFL rookie is poised to create problems for his new team.
On Sunday, Tony Dungy told The Tampa Tribune he would not have drafted defensive end Michael Sam.
"I wouldn't have taken him... Not because I don't believe Michael Sam should have a chance to play, but I wouldn't want to deal with all of it."
Sam, 24, is set to become the NFL's first openly gay player. When he reports to training camp on Tuesday, it will be up to St. Louis Rams' coach Jeff Fisher if the team wants to bear that legacy.
When Sam was initially drafted, the Rams' chief operating officer, Kevin Demoff, said they were aware of the statement they were making.
"If you're going to take a leadership position by drafting Michael. You have to expect the good and the bad. We're prepared for it, and I think we'll shine through it."
If Michael Sam makes the Rams' roster, a mentor like Tony Dungy would have been an asset. In the past, Dungy helped shepherd Michael Vick back into the league after serving prison time. While coaching for the Indianapolis Colts, Dungy also championed several players who were facing criminal charges.
Eric Edholm, an analyst for Yahoo Sports, said it's unclear why Dungy would tolerate the media storm around those players, but not around Michael Sam.
"There's an inconsistency and a lack of authenticity to what Dungy has said... By most accounts, Sam is humble and hungry to prove the doubters wrong... That's the kind of player most NFL coaches would want on their team... But if players such as... Sam, whose intentions appear to be good, can play then why should they be blackballed? That's sad and unfortunate if it's the prevailing NFL stream of thought."
An analyst with CBS Sports was less kind about Dungy's view on Sam.
"This is a disappointing stance from the first African-American coach to win a Super Bowl who dealt with racially-based backlash for he and his family at times," writes Will Brinson.
It is not just the media that could create problems for Michael Sam. The former Mizzou Tigers player could face homophobic trash talk from NFL teammates. It's a football tradition that the NFL is trying to curb following the bullying controversy last season with the Miami Dolphins.
Like all other rookies, Michael Sam needs to make the cut in training camp before he can play. The Rams' pre-season roster should be set by August 8 when the team takes on the New Orleans Saints.
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