Following Tony Dungy's controversial comments about Michael Sam earlier this week, in which he explained why he would not have drafted Sam, the NFL's first openly gay player and his coach Jeff Fisher have responded to the remarks.
Sam's comments were passed along by Nick Wagoner of ESPN:
Sam on Dungy's comments: "Thank God he wasn't the St. Louis Rams coach. (laughs) I have a lot of respect for Coach Dungy." (1 of 2)— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) July 22, 2014
"And like everyone in America, everyone is entitled to their own opinions." (2 of 2)— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) July 22, 2014
Fisher, speaking on ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike program Wednesday, via ESPN.com, was also asked to address Dungy's comments, and he said Sam has "absolutely not" caused a distraction for the team:
Let's define distraction. There were a couple extra cameras during the early OTAs, there may have been an extra camera yesterday as the rookies reported and went on the field for the first time, but no, it's not.
Sam has yet to take a snap in the NFL, but he made waves when he was taken in the seventh round of the 2014 NFL draft by the Rams, becoming the league's first openly gay player. The former Missouri defensive talent was named the 2013 SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, but fell in the draft.
Dungy, the former head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Indianapolis Colts and current NBC analyst, previously commented on Sam, via Ira Kaufman of The Tampa Tribune:
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.
It's not going to be totally smooth … things will happen.
His remarks stirred plenty of conversation and debate, and he then clarified his comments, per a release (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk):
What I was asked about was my philosophy of drafting, a philosophy that was developed over the years, which was to minimize distractions for my teams. I do not believe Michael’s sexual orientation will be a distraction to his teammates or his organization. I do, however, believe that the media attention that comes with it will be a distraction. Unfortunately we are all seeing this play out now, and I feel badly that my remarks played a role in the distraction.
Seth Davis of CBS Sports was just a bit confused by the two opposing remarks by Dungy:
Dungy says he would not draft Michael Sam because of media distractions. Also says he'd have no prob having Sam on his team. So which is it?— Seth Davis (@SethDavisHoops) July 23, 2014
Sam has been rewarded for his bravery, winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the 2014 ESPYs. But now, he is clearly focused on making the Rams' 53-man roster out of training camp.
He still has several hurdles to overcome in that regard, as St. Louis boasts one of the deepest defensive lines in all of football. Not only is Sam a rookie, but he has plenty of competition ahead of him on the depth chart.
A lot still has to happen for Sam's story to continue onto the field in the regular season, but he is working hard and doing everything he needs to so far.
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