Michael Sam Returns To Montreal Alouettes After Leaving Training Camp For Undisclosed Personal Reasons

Michael Sam has returned to the Canadian Football League’s Montreal Alouettes two weeks after abruptly leaving training camp for undisclosed personal reasons. The Montreal Gazette reports that Sam was in Montreal Wednesday, has a locker at Olympic Stadium, and is expected to attend team meetings Sunday. He is also to be at practice on Monday.

With the reasons for Sam’s departure being kept quiet, rumors soon surfaced as to why the defensive end left the day before the Alouettes’ exhibition game. Some speculated a comment by a teammate regarding him appearing on Dancing with the Stars instead of preparing for his football season upset him. Others said he was afraid of being cut and decided to leave before that could happen — a report that infuriated the vice president of the Montreal Alouettes, Jim Popp.

Popp never lost hope in Michael Sam. He told the Guardian earlier this week that after remaining in constant contact with Sam during his absence, he felt sure Sam would return to the league. While he won’t reveal why Sam left, Popp feels he was tired and simply “needed a break.”

“I think he needed a break. That’s my personal belief. I think it was just overwhelming to some degree, and he needs to clear his mind, clear his head. Do I think he wants to play? Do I think he wants to be on the field? Do I think he wants to be Michael Sam the football player? I, 100%, believe that. Yes.”

Popp thinks there are several NFL teams still interested in Michael Sam. He feels the coaches are probably hoping he does well in the CFL so they can take a chance on him down the road. He added that several teams called while Sam was away to ask why he left and when he would return.

“They wouldn’t be calling if they weren’t interested. They were monitoring him to see how he did here. There’s a lot of people who want to see Michael Sam play, and they are going to tune in to see him play.”

Popp said football’s first openly gay player is going to have to deal with the attention that the title brings, but ultimately Sam wants to be known for his football, not for being gay. He explained when Sam came out, he wasn’t expecting the overwhelming reaction it brought.

“He wants to be one of the guys, one of the football players who go out and do what they do. At the end of the day, he is going to have that badge of the so-called first. But he is Michael Sam the football player, not Michael Sam the gay football player, and hopefully that helps a lot of other athletes be able to stand up and say who they are, so they can feel they can be themselves.”

Michael Sam made history last year by becoming the first openly gay player to be drafted into the NFL. He spent some time with the St. Louis Rams, then with the Dallas Cowboys practice squad, but has yet to play in a professional regular-season game. He signed with the Montreal Alouettes in May.

[Image by Ed Zurga/Getty Images]

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