New England Patriots: Michael Sam and the NFL

Belichick: Sam evaluated like all others

February, 10, 2014
2/10/14
4:15
PM ET
In response to media requests about draft prospect Michael Sam, Patriots coach Bill Belichick today issued the following statement:

“We evaluate all the players, including Michael Sam, based on the totality of who they are and who can best contribute to our team and organization, regardless of the matters being discussed today. They all have strengths, they all have weaknesses and no two human beings are identical. Our scouting staff has performed extensive work on Michael, both this season and going back throughout his career. That work will continue through the draft process this spring."

Kraft: Pats would welcome gay player

February, 10, 2014
2/10/14
3:20
PM ET
New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said Monday he would welcome an openly gay player on his team if the coaching staff thought he would help the team on the field.

“We’re about winning,” Kraft told the Boston Herald. “And anyone who can come in here and help us win, I personally don’t care what their ethnic background is, their racial background, the gender preference. If they can help us win, and they’re about team first, then I’m happy to have him here.”

Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam on Sunday told ESPN’s “Outside The Lines” that he was gay. The All-American is eligible for the NFL draft and is projected to be picked in the middle-to-late rounds of May’s draft. Assuming he is taken, he could become the first openly gay player in the NFL.

Kraft said he had not spoken with Bill Belichick specifically about Sam, but said the coach knows where he stands on the possibility.

“He knows that I would encourage him if [Sam] can help us win,” Kraft told the Herald. “He and I have discussed this in the past. Anyone who can help us win.”

Kraft thinks the Patriots’ locker room would be a supportive environment for an openly gay player.

“If a player were gay and came into this locker room, it would be the most supportive system,” he said. “He’d gain strength by being in here. And it wouldn’t be divisive and he’d make friends for life and they could help him win.”

The Patriots’ owner pointed out that Sam came out to his Missouri teammates before the season and pointed to the Tigers’ 12-2 record as proof that having a gay player would not negatively impact a team.

“He was co-defensive player of the year in the SEC,” Kraft told the Herald. “And that was after full disclosure. And that makes me happy.”

Exploring Michael Sam and Patriots fit

February, 10, 2014
2/10/14
2:00
PM ET
With Missouri defensive end Michael Sam announcing publicly Sunday that he was gay, putting him in position to become the first openly active gay player in NFL history, the thought probably crossed the mind of many team-based reporters:

Could you envision a scenario in which Sam lands on the team you cover?

Here are some of my Patriots-based thoughts:

1. It’s about winning: If Bill Belichick thought Sam could help the Patriots win, and he represented the oft-stated “value pick” when he was available, I don’t think he’d hesitate to draft him or sign him after the draft.

2. Something Kraft would root for: Owner Robert Kraft doesn’t make X’s and O’s football decisions, deferring to Belichick, whose track record speaks for itself. But if all things were equal, I think adding Sam is something Kraft would root for because of the inclusive message it would send by his franchise. I think that would mean a lot to Kraft, who takes pride in the Patriots being a “pillar in the community.”

3. Locker-room culture: As an anonymous scout mentioned in Peter King’s “Monday Morning Quarterback” piece on TheMMQB.com, the Patriots have the type of culture -- with strong leadership at the top with Belichick and in the locker room -- where the hubbub that is sure to follow Sam would be quickly extinguished. Former Patriots receiver Donte’ Stallworth made a similar point on Twitter. There are countless examples of situations that were supposed to be distractions (e.g. Aaron Hernandez's murder charge, Tim Tebow's signing etc.) that turned out to be anything but distractions because it’s about football, first and foremost, in New England. For that to work, the player(s) and team have to be working off the same script.

4. Sam’s football fit in New England: Sam is an undersized defensive end by NFL standards (6-foot-1 5/8, 260 pounds) and those players usually don’t carry as high of a draft grade with the Patriots, who have generally preferred their end-of-the-line players to be in the 6-foot-5 and 255-pound range (similar to 2012 first-round pick Chandler Jones). So purely from a height-weight-role standpoint, I don’t see the perfect football fit with the Patriots based on the team’s drafting history. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t happen, as one possible comparable is 2003 Patriots seventh-round draft choice Tully Banta-Cain, who was in that same type of “tweener” category of 4-3 defensive end and 3-4 outside linebacker. Banta-Cain developed into an effective pass-rusher for the team, and every club is looking for disruptive pass-rushers.

SPONSORED HEADLINES